Oil, Diamonds, & Chicken Sandwiches: Good Things Are Worth Fighting Over

Image result for chick fil a popeyes

Toward the tail end of the summer, America found itself in its most turbulent conflict since the Civil War. I am of course talking about the great Chicken Sandwich War of 2019.

The belligerents were Popeye's, the fast-food home of Cajun cuisine; and Chick-Fil-A, the restaurant with staff members so kind that it's a little unsettling.

These two combatants feuded for several weeks until Popeye's ran out of bun rations and was forced to call a cease-fire. That's a bad look. Popeye's was going full Leon Lett into the end zone only to realize that in order to dethrone Chick-Fil-A, some sandwich persistence would be necessary.

Rome wasn't built in a day, nor was Chick-Fil-A's empire of chicken.

***

I'm a Chick-Fil-A guy. That statement will potentially ruffle feathers (Yup, I went there) due to what some deem to be questionable political stances from some of Chick-Fil-A's top-brass. I don't care what side of that equation you fall on, all I ask is that you don't let chicken dictate your political leanings. As University of Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh once said, chicken is a "nervous bird". You don't want a nervous bird making decisions like that for you.

I didn't get a taste of Chick-Fil-A until I moved away to college. Having grown up in the North, Chick-Fil-As were less prevalent and it wasn't until I relocated to Orlando, Florida that I became a devotee of the Chick-Fil-A sandwich.

I sampled my first one within days of beginning my education in the hallowed halls of academia known as the University of Central Florida, and the restaurant's signature sandwich and I became buds. 

Having a good day? Grab a sammich.

Having a bad day? Grab a sammich.

Bored? Grab a sammich.

Already grabbed a sammich that day? Grab another sammich.

My go to option was, and always will be, the classic Chick-Fil-A sandwich with a drizzle of Chick-Fil-A sauce, a concoction that I had initially hoped was a magical mixture of spices found in the foothills of the Himalayan mountains, but it turns out that it's just barbecue sauce mixed with honey mustard. That doesn't make it any less good though.

Never would another contender be able to even rattle the pedestal upon which the Chick-Fil-A was so majestically perched... or so I thought.

***

Popeye's entrance into the chicken fray was surprising to me, simply because I couldn't believe that after all of these years, they never put the idea of placing fried chicken on a bun into practice. After you make that first batch of chicken, how is that not the very next thing everyone in the room thinks?

Hey, we should put this on a bun.

Perhaps it's the language barrier between English and Creole, but somehow this took Popeye's decades.

A Popeye's had semi-recently opened in my hometown, so it was new to me. In fact, it had only been a few years since I had learned that everyone's favorite spinach-guzzling sailor had nothing to do with the restaurant.

As soon as the Popeye's sandwich entered the public zeitgeist and began making a case for being the rightful heir to the chicken sandwich throne, I decided to try and get my hands on one. But, alas, I was too late. The supply had run out, and Popeye's was now requesting that if you wanted a sandwich then you would need to bring your own bun. No one would ever do this, and if they did, I hope they would be involuntarily committed to the nearest mental hospital that the government hasn't yet shutdown.

***

In the final days of October, Popeye's made an announcement: no longer were buns in short supply; the sandwich would return.

A collective "huzzah" reverberated around the country, with everyone circling November 3 on their calendar.

Once the day came, everything descended into chaos.

Popeye's restaurants became literal battle grounds. Fight's broke out, one person was fatally stabbed, and another was beaten with biscuit in what is being called the most world's first example of assault and buttery.

Like oil and diamonds, if people were willing to fight it, then it had to be good. I knew I needed to get one of these sandwiches.

***

On November 4, as the embers of the sandwich's relaunch still smoldered, I ordered a Popeye's chicken sandwich from the safety of a 2011 Kia Sorento, and drove it back home where I could taste it from the safety of my bunker.

Upon opening the bag I was struck by the size of the chicken breast. I know it's not polite to gaze at breasts for too long, but when they're this big, c'mon. I'm not sure what chicken is walking around with those things, but it would have had back problems if it hadn't had it's head sawn off to make my sandwich.

I gave the sandwich high marks even before biting in for its brioche bun, which is quietly the best bun out there.

I grasped the sandwich in both hands and took a bite. The psychedelic euphoria I had expected never came. While delicious, the way everyone on the internet talks about it, I had thought I was about to achieve nirvana. I didn't. I just had a a really good sandwich.

This begs the question: was this sandwich superior to Chick-Fil-A's offerings.

In my opinion, while delicious, it's a fairly definitive no. 

Both are delicious, so going on taste alone its hard to make a decision. For me, it all comes down to one thing: structural integrity.

I'm an advocate for sandwich structural integrity. I hate nothing more than getting a delicious burger only to have it completely fall apart the second my incisors make contact with it.

This is the reason why I have never been a fan of Pittsburgh's Primanti sandwich. They use a spongy italian bread, and then throw greasy fries and wet, mayo-based coleslaw on top. After the first bite, the whole thing becomes a sloppy mess.

The Popeye's sandwich is huge, and that is its downfall, as the sandwich crumbles under its own mass. Less is not always more. The Chick-Fil-A sandwich maintains it's integrity and is a better structured entry into the chicken sandwich fray than its bayou-based brethren.

History is written by the victors, which is why, in my opinion, Chick-Fil-A will author the chapter on the "Great Chicken Sandwich War of 2019."





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