Ed’s Low-Down on Buffalo Wings

Much like the ubiquitous pork belly, which seems to find its way onto every upscale menu at an exorbitant price these days, chicken wings were once considered very much a poor man’s pick when it came to buying meat.

Wings then more often than not found their way into a stock pot, but sometime in the late 1970s, a wings recipe came out of Buffalo that took the nation by storm and has become a staple.

Nowadays, chicken wings cost more than any other cut of chicken in the supermarket, and more than most beef or pork; $3.10 a pound today in my local meat department.

I’ve known Ed Komara, a native of Buffalo, for a very long time, ever since he was the curator of the Blues Archive at the University of Mississippi, so I asked him to give me his low-down on chicken wings, and here it is, in 7 points (no less):

REAL Buffalo wings are not battered, but rather deep-fried as-is. After frying, the wings are then shaken in a container with butter (or margarine) and hot sauce (in the cheap places, usually Frank’s Hot Sauce).

  1. The main effect of a true Buffalo wing is the immediate sharpness of the spicy heat, then a quick lowering of that spice.
  2. By contrast, the Rochester, NY version is battered and deep-fried, so as to hold more of the hot sauce (in a sticky/honey sort of variant) and make the spicy burn last for a long time in one’s mouth. (This is especially true of the wings made at Country Sweet in Rochester).
  3. In Buffalo, historically speaking, there are two main places for wings: the Anchor Bar, and Duff’s. The Anchor Bar was where wings were first served in 1964, to the owner’s son and friends as late-night munchies. The bar is located near the Allen Street, aka “Allentown” which is the bohemian arts section of the city. By 1990 when I went there, the “bar” became more like a restaurant serving some killer Italian food (including the richest pizza I’ve ever tried).
  4. Duff’s began offering wings in 1969. It is located conveniently on Sheridan Drive (on the cusp of city and suburb) for those who don’t really want to go all the way to Allentown for the Anchor Bar.
  5. There may be a missing link between the Anchor Bar and Duff’s. My dad remembered sometime in the 1960s that a couple of Buffalo Bills football players were partners in a chicken wing stand that brought wings to city pop-culture attention beyond the Anchor Bar. But I haven’t seen that documented anywhere.
  6. I don’t know where the heck the idea of including celery and blue cheese dressing with wings came from or why. It’s as gratuitous as applesauce with potato pancakes.

“Wing stands are pretty common in Buffalo,” Ed says. “Much less often seen are places serving beef on weck, the other distinctive Buffalo bar food. The ‘weck is short for kummelweck (or as the locals pronounce it, “kimelwick”), which is a salty bun. The one place among my haunts that served it was Anacone’s Inn (now closed, alas), which always seemed to have run out of beef on weck every time I arrived there (usually at 1 a.m.).

Here is the original recipe. Joint the wings, (discard the tips) then pat dry (IMPORTANT!) and deep-fry them until crispy. Toss in the sauce while hot. I used Crystal.  They’re superb.

8 tablespoons hot sauce (Frank’s or Crystal recommended)
8 tablespoons unsalted butter or margarine
1 1/2 tablespoons white vinegar
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
salt to taste

Scampi

In capable hands, classic recipes made with fresh, quality ingredients can be magic, but I’m here to tell you somebody’s bound to fuck up anything with everything.

You will find instances where classic recipes become caught in a backwater eddy and rot into poor, grotesque things far removed from former splendor, like a fading star of stage and screen who’s stuck reenacting a famous role in a cowtown. Many recipes fall subject to this farce for the same reason: their name is a draw. So you’ll find prima vera with frozen vegetables, for instance, or steak Diane with cannned cream of mushroom soup.

I worked in a restaurant where the house recipe for scampi consisted of garlic powder, a commercial oil product (Whirl), and the remnants of whatever open bottle of white wine the bartender had. That’s it. This concoction was poured over a dozen medium-sized shrimp arranged in a small circular metal dish and placed in a salamander.

More often than not, the results were dry and chewy. Had our customers been more sophisticated, no doubt they would have complained with vigor and frequency, but the very fact that they didn’t led to the recipe becoming entrenched on our menu and–what’s even more tragic–likely defining this trash as scampi for hundreds of people.

To make a good scampi, sauté the best shrimp available in a really good butter with a slash of olive oil, plenty of fresh, finely-minced garlic, a fruity white wine, salt and white pepper. Before serving, add a jolt of lemon juice and a sprinkling of parsley. Some thicken the sauce with starch,  add scallions, or even chopped drained tomatoes, but I don’t. Scampi can be served as an appetizer with bread or over pasta as an entree.

CS’s: A Jackson Institution

CS’s Restaurant at 1359 ½ N. West Street has for years served and influenced the Belhaven and Midtown neighborhoods. It has a narrative and history reminiscent of an earlier and more tranquil Jackson, and like the kites flown at old Riverside Park, thereby hangs a tale. The life of this establishment has been the common denominator of being located on the southwest corner of North West and Adelle Streets with a street number varying from 1357-1361. It has been an eatery in one form or another for 77 years. It remembers when streetcars ran up and down West Street and the country was still in the grasp of the Great Depression. Millsaps boys would sometimes grease the car tracks so that the vehicle could not climb a nearby hill. Boys have always been boys.

The property shared tenancy with the Millsaps College chapter of Pi Kappa Alpha Fraternity in 1937.The site was originally the home of this fraternity and was a residence for several families prior to that dating back to 1930. It was originally (and later) the College Grill, becoming Adelle Grill in 1939. It retained this name until 1959, when it again became the College Grill under new ownership. In 1969, it became Hollingsworth’s Fine Foods under the proprietorship of Lloyd W. Hollingsworth and remained such until 1976 when it became known as Everybody’s Restaurant. How it became CS’s remains a state secret.

Pat Boland bought Everybody’s in 1978. In visits with Pat, he spoke of how he used to eat at the restaurant while still in high school. One of eight children, he remembers how much his parents enjoyed dining at the old Rotisserie at Five Points, and “I wanted to be in the restaurant business even then. When Everybody’s became vacant I bought it. I wanted to do something new and different both with the menu and the atmosphere.” He started with naming menu items for employees and customers. Many associate the menu with the Inez Burger. Inez Birchfield came to work at CS’s in 1979, left temporarily in 1990 and returned in September 1997. The original Inez Burger was “stolen from the Jackson Municipal Airport”, where Pat once worked and put on CS’s menu in 1980. It consists of homemade chili, nacho cheese and Jalapeno peppers. Other “name” burgers include the Suzy (bacon, Swiss cheese & grilled onions) and the Joe B (bacon, mozzarella and Jalapenos). Mexican, Mushroom and Everyday burgers, which come in different sizes, round out the burger menu and of course, ‘you can have fries with that.’ Plate lunches and entrees are also available.

In 1986, the beer laws changed from 18 to 21 years old and CS’s became more of a true restaurant than a hangout. The atmosphere is unique. Gone are the college motifs, the booths, fraternity crests and at times – but not all the time, the jukebox. Today the front door and walls are adorned with bumper stickers, handbills, photos, posters and pennants spanning nearly half a century. An estimated 3,000 beer cans from the same time period cover wall shelves with some from as far away as Australia. The collections were the brain child of Pat and two partners who thought their walls should “say something.”

I have my own memories of the restaurant from when I was a teenager in old Jackson and the establishment was called the Adelle Grill. Regardless of the name or time this little cafe was a Mecca for Millsaps students who in the 1950’s shared Cokes, shakes and dreams in individual booths. There were several tables in the back for “fine dining.” There was the ubiquitous jukebox playing records by Stan Kenton, Dave Brubeck and the Four Freshmen (no rock’n roll or Hank in this culturally refined milieu), and that staple of the 50’s – the pinball machine in the corner near the front door. Should a member of the college crowd have occasioned a glance in that direction, he or she would have seen the adolescent Billy Harvey easing a ball toward the “special” hole where free games awaited. His bike on the sidewalk outside and his heart on the game, Billy wished desperately to grow up a little more so he could be a college man and sit in one of those curtained booths with a girl who looked like glory.

Bert Case and his family lived directly across Adelle Street in a two-story brick home attached to Case’s Canteen, one of Jackson’s many “ma and pa” groceries and incidentally, near the site of the city’s very first Jitney Jungle store (at the corner of Adelle and Grayson – now North Lamar), back in 1912.

The prices, fashions, trends and dreams have indeed changed over the years – but we can still ‘have fries with that’ and enjoy our lunch among the memorabilia that forms the texture of our past. Bert moved on to prominence at WLBT-TV and subsequently WAPT; his old home now a parking lot. Hollingsworth’s is now CS’s where the burgers are bigger. The shakes, booths, jukebox and pinball machine are gone as is Billy’s bike and the years he rode it. The “glory” girls are grandmothers now and the music is – to put it positively – “different”. But CS’s has a history and Inez was not the first famous inventor of a good burger to add to Saturday afternoon memories of our youth.

Adelle Grill, College Grille, Hollingsworth’s, CS’s; I’ll drink to them all!

Bill Harvey
September 2014

Bill Harvey is a native Jacksonian, living most of his life in Belhaven. An MSU Bulldog, he has had careers in journalism, education and as development director of the Andrew Jackson Council, Boy Scouts of America. Bill enjoys photography, music, writing articles for neighborhood sources and sharing experiences with friends at a local coffee shop. (Text copyright Bill Harvey, used by permission.)

Cracker Jacks

People had probably been eating a mix of peanuts and popcorn for at least a hundred years before the Rueckheim brothers created a magical mix with molasses at the 1863 Chicago World’s Fair. Soon they began marketing Cracker Jack nationally, unintentionally becoming the fathers of American junk food.

Junk food it very well is, but crackerjacks are also a great snack, as junk foods tend to be, and fun to make at home for a party

Mix 10 cups popped corn and 2 cups Spanish peanuts in a roasting pan. Place in oven at 250. Bring a half cup dark corn syrup, a half cup butter, a quarter cup brown sugar, and a teaspoon of salt to a rolling boil for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in a teaspoon vanilla. Working quickly, pour over warm corn and nuts while tossing until well coated. Spread on a  lightly oiled sheet pan and return to oven, stirring occasionally, for 45 minutes. Don’t let it stick. Turn onto foil to cool. Salt lightly before serving.

Egg in a Basket

Use sturdy bread and a sharp cutter. Lightly brown bread on both sides in a hot oiled pan, add a pat of butter in the center, and crack an egg into it. If you’re feeding several people, you can cook these on a sheet pan in a hot oven. Keep the seasonings simple: salt and black pepper. Toast the hole, top with jam, and serve as a side.

Candied Sweet Potatoes

This recipe comes from April McGreger, a fellow native of Calhoun County, Mississippi, and author of Sweet Potatoes, the tenth volume in University of North Carolina’s wonderful “Savor the South” series. April is a splendid cook, but I find her technique a little fussy. I simply assemble the ingredients in a skillet, put a loose lid on it, and bake at 350 until potatoes are tender and syrup reduced.

The genius of southern food is less in its individual dishes than in the overall composition of the meal. Syrupy sweet potatoes balance earthy field peas and sharp turnip greens shot through with hot pepper vinegar. Crispy cornbread swoops in to sop it all up. Here is a particularly nuanced version of ubiquitous candied sweet potatoes that makes use of that coffee can of bacon grease my grandparents and parents kept above the stove.

MAKES 6 SERVINGS

4 medium sweet potatoes (about 2 pounds), peeled and sliced 1/2 inch thick
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon bacon drippings
1 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup water
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Layer the sweet potatoes in a large cast-iron skillet. Dot with the butter and bacon drippings, and sprinkle with the sugar and salt. Pour the water and lemon juice over the sweet potatoes and cover the skillet with a tight-fitting lid or foil. Simmer for 15 minutes. Remove the cover and simmer until the sweet potatoes are very tender and the sauce is thick, 30-35 minutes more. Baste the sweet potatoes with the syrup from time to time, being careful not to break them up.

The Man of God

Commentary by Cameron Abel

It was a cold, wet night in Vicksburg. I stepped outside the hotel to smoke a cigarette. A young man in a heavy canvas coat and muddy boots sat on a bench nearby.

He asked, “Are you a man of God?”

I nodded my head, answered affirmatively. I instantly knew where this was heading but didn’t mind or shy away from it. He said he had a new job down Highway 61, but added, “I need some help.”

“What can I do?” I asked.

“How about $5 and a bag of Bar-B-Q Fritos from the machine in the hotel lobby, if they got ‘em?” I gave him $7, thinking he might be pleased with a little extra, but trying to discretely hide the four $20 bills nestled there in my wallet. I went to get him his chips. I returned triumphant and handed him the bag. He was joyous: “They had them! They’re my favorite.”

He paused then asked tentatively, “If I give you the $5 back, will you give me a 20 instead?”

I soured. “Quit while you’re ahead,” I said, and as I walked away, headed for the warmth of my room, I called over my shoulder, “Good luck on the new job.”

Through the remainder of the week, I was approached by two other panhandlers. The first received no more than a “no cash, man.” The second was a woman who clutched her light bill and said that her electricity had been cut off, and she needed to get a room for her and her two boys for the weekend. She got one of those $20 bills.

It had been easy, as a child, to key in on exactly what is expected of us: love God with all your heart, love your neighbor as yourself. The former commandment is seemingly abstract, but practiced through daily prayers of wonder and thanks, and maintaining good stewardship over our world. But being asked to give, on the spot, in person, always gives me a feeling that I’m being tested by God. Am I loving my neighbor?

My first encounter with a panhandler was not long after my first move from Oxford to the Delta, on a hot summer night at a convenience store in Leland, with mosquitos on the assault, me trying to get to my car before being eaten alive.

“I need $2 for gas,” the young man claimed. I was quick to give then, and the resulting feeling was assuring. It didn’t last. The next time I stopped for gas, the same young man approached. Same request. He didn’t recognize me. I didn’t bite.

About 20 years ago, my husband Buddy and I went to San Francisco. The homeless there cast a pall that, along with the weather, really brought down the level of enjoyment. (One sign, propped against an intoxicated woman, said: “Give Me Money Or I Will Get An Abortion.”)

While at City Lights Booksellers, I spotted an elderly woman, at least 80, pushing a grocery cart filled with her worldly goods. I impulsively wanted to give her something, but she hadn’t asked, and I didn’t offer. Yet, she haunted me the next several days.

“What if she were an angel, Buddy?” I lamented. I just couldn’t shake the feeling.

A couple of days later, while we stood at the counter of a coffee shop, we heard squeaky wheels outside the open door. Buddy said, “I’ve got it,” and walked to the sidewalk and pulled money from his wallet to give her. It was the best anniversary gift that he could have given me.

Last story. Parking lot at Walmart. “I need some gas money. I’m coming back from Atlanta and I’m almost on empty. Need to get to Belzoni.”

“I’ll do you better,” I said, pointing. “Meet me at that gas station.”

He drove a huge truck, one of those with two gas tanks. I ran my card, he pulled out the gas nozzle, and opened the gas cover revealing the two caps to the two tanks. He chose the wrong one. It topped off just after $3. He looked at me and started to move the nozzle to the other tank. I flipped the lever and walked away. Neither of us said a word.

It can be difficult to maintain a spirit of charity. I don’t know how to react anymore. I feel spiritually bruised. And used. When I see my priest, I will beg a pearl of wisdom and a breath of revival.

I know the right hook: “Are you a man of God?”

Cameron Abel is an attorney in Greenwood.