aRUDE — The Art of Experience — Vincent Williams, Honey’s Kettle, and the Curious History of Fried Chicken

Authenticity is a tricky thing. Like love, like art, it has no real definition other than *you know it when you feel it*. And while individual experience is subjective, a communal experience is something shared. When something is shared by many, it is no longer ‘an’ experience, it becomes ‘the’ experience *of*: it shifts from *me* to *us*, from *micro* to *meta*.

Nothing exists in a vacuum, and everything has a beginning, goes back, has its roots. Although fried chicken is traditionally associated with the American south, its origins can be traced to African and Scotland. There were a variety of west African peoples who were frying chicken through the ages, with added seasonings. The Scotts have been frying chicken since the middle ages, but they did so without seasoning. These techniques were combined during the slave trade. Notably, before World War II, fried chicken was expensive to make and only enjoyed on special occasions. That fried chicken became a food synonymous with affordable, fast food, is an irony not lost on history; fried chicken is more than simply a type of food, it is a metaphor for the victory and ascendancy of the subjugated. 

Like Blues and Jazz, fried chicken, has its roots in the forced hybridization of the colonial and slave trade experiences, making it a testimony to the endurance of ideas. Borne of pleasure or pain, all ideas are free for the taking; all ideas are created equal. With Honey‘s Kettle, Vincent Williams
has carved out a singular niche: traditional southern food which is equal parts cooking and cuisine, commerce and art, grit and glam. Here, fried chicken is not simply served to customers, but served up as a expression of the manifold layers of history: fried chicken, sweet yams, lemonade and blueberry hotcakes, all manifested as products of the creative process. 

But you need not have had to experience southern fare to realize this is not just ‘cooking’, but cuisine of the highest order. One bite down through the crispy, impeccably seasoned crust, into the moist tender meat….. this — layered with the minimally portioned, impeccably nuanced sweet-meets-sour sliced pickles (just HOW is this pairing so PERfectly POSSible?!) — and you know this quietly bursting-with-flavor combination has not arrived by accident, but by many years of exquisitely crafted design. Not just fried chicken, but a metaphor for the hybridity and delicate complexity of our nuanced, multi-dimensional, shared, American experience. 

— Vanessa Daou, 9.28.17

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