Hot Sauce Nation by Denver Nicks

Hot Sauce Nation by Denver Nicks

Author:Denver Nicks
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: Chicago Review Press
Published: 2016-05-03T04:00:00+00:00


8

CHICKEN WINGS

AND SOUTHERN THINGS

* * *

Hot tamales and they’re red hot, yes she got ’em for sale

Man don’t mess around ’em hot tamales now

Cause they too black bad, if you mess around ’em hot tamales

I’m ’onna upset your backbone, put your kidneys to sleep

I’ll due to break away your liver and dare your heart to beat bout my

Hot tamales cause they red hot, yes they got ’em for sale, I mean

Yes, she got ’em for sale.

—ROBERT JOHNSON, “HOT TAMALES”

I shredded a tire doing eighty on the interstate in Upstate New York a few hours outside of Buffalo. After putting on the spare in the median with cars whizzing by feet from my skull, and entertaining horrifying visions of the cost of new shoes for my car, I was, by the time I finally entered Buffalo’s hulking postindustrial cityscape, in an agitated state. If you had to pick a city to descend upon in a bad mood, it turns out Buffalo, New York, wouldn’t be a bad choice.

I drove straight to the highest rated tire shop I could find with a quick smartphone search, Cleve-Hill Auto & Tire on Main Street. The folks behind the counter were extremely nice. All the other patrons were extremely nice—one of them later recognized me on the street, stopped his car, and just gave me an extra tire he had on hand. For free. In a stroke of bizarre coincidence, directly across the street from Cleve-Hill Auto & Tire was the place I’d traveled all the way up to the northern reaches of America to visit: Anchor Bar, home of the buffalo chicken wing. In Buffalo even coincidences are extremely nice.

A sure way to mark oneself as an outsider in Buffalo—other than being anything less than extremely nice—is to place an order for buffalo chicken wings. For in Buffalo they are not called buffalo chicken wings. When I took up a stool in Anchor Bar, even the pint of Labatt Blue (a Canadian beer with regional reach) I ordered could not camouflage my outsiderness after I ordered a plate of buffalo chicken wings, and it is thanks only to the fact that the bartender and patrons alike were all extremely nice that I was politely set straight rather than laughed out of the bar. Texas toast is still Texas toast in Texas, and California rolls are California rolls in California, but in Buffalo the pattern does not hold. Perhaps because their provenance is held to be so truly and deeply Buffalonian (a real word); because as a snack, meal, and art form they are held in such high esteem by the people of Buffalo; or because they are so revered as one of that frigid city’s hottest homegrown innovations, in Buffalo, buffalo wings are called, simply, “wings.”

Today Anchor Bar serves up unremarkable pub grub and Italian-American fare, plus a steady cascade of fantastic chicken wings coated in either their famous sauce (hot or cut with butter down to medium or mild) or their spicier “Suicide Sauce,” which is not really all that hot and not nearly as good as the traditional stuff.



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