• Paul Lowry
  • Hot chicken, served right

I don’t remember what I was doing, or reading. Just those words, “hot chicken,” somewhere—somewhere on the page. On the Internet. (Am I writing like Peggy Noonan on Mitt Romney? That’s just how I feel. About spice, about chicken.) “Hot chicken” is the kind of phrase that will force a wandering, preprandial mind to attention—so concise, so beguiling. So eight hours away, it turns out. Hot chicken is a Nashville specialty, lodged in the gastronomic lore of the place like goat barbecue is in Owensboro, Kentucky. Hot chicken, served most famously at a Nashville vendor called Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack, is famously hot. Michael Stern declared it “h-o-t”: the full disarticulated-letter treatment. Spice is applied to the bird before it’s cooked (cf buffalo wings, which are sauced afterward). Then the hot chicken is presented on a slice of white bread. With a piece of pickle on top. So simple it’s elemental: spice, starch, pickle. The American bird.