My all time favorite diner dinner is the three-piece fried chicken plate with corn and mashed potatoes. The corn is always a bright yellow color that is found nowhere else in nature (the jury is out on whether it is frozen or canned). The potatoes are rehydrated flakes far removed from their underground days. The gravy is the progeny of something the astronauts squeeze from tubes while in orbit. But the star of this dinner theater is the chicken. The three pieces always consist of a drumstick, a breast, and that mystery piece. Since it is dark meat like the drumstick, I think it's safe to assume this third piece has something to do with chicken locomotion. But here's the kicker: no matter the location of the diner or the time of day or the season when the meal is ordered: the chicken pieces are always the same size. While cows have been given drugs to increase milk production and Tom Turkey is doped up to increase his breast size, the diner-bound chickens of today are no different from their ancestors of my youth.
This is a true Franken-meal and I find the craving hard to deny when it hits. Unfortunately, for myself and other fans of this delicacy, it is going the way of the dodo bird (did dodos also possess that odd third piece?) The culprit is the chicken strip. This larger and more heavily-breaded relative of McD's chicken nuggets (speaking of odd pieces) is taking over and shoving the three-piece dinner off the menu. Not only do these strips lack the greasy goodness of the fried pieces, but the meat under the thick crunchy outer-shell (a defense against chicken strip predators in the wild, perhaps?) is all almost-white meat. Whereas I cannot determine what role the odd third piece plays in a chicken's anatomy, at least I am assured it came from a bird because it contains bones. Where on a bird do these strips of white-ish meat originate from? And why are there always three strips in a meal? That's asymmetrical anatomy. Get me Darwin on the phone.
The level of satisfaction that washes over me when I survey the bone and napkin debris from a three-piece fried chicken dinner is not matched when I look over an empty plate, devoid of ... of ... strips.
We all suffer from our own version of nostalgia and I guess this is mine. See you at the diner.