The Sexy Chicken: The New York Times Discovers Chicken Chicharon

Today’s bizarre internet meme is the saga of The Sexy Chicken. The New York Times Food section recently decided to do a feature on the new allure of deep fried crispy chicken skin – apparently, this form of crackling is a novelty among most Americans. Entitled “Chicken’s Attraction is Truly Skin Deep” – this piece focused on the cult of chicken skin.

Chicken skin is turning up as a fancy entree in some restaurants (even served with grilled foie gras), and a chicken skin taco has become a big street food hit. The New York Times feature even has a delectable bunch of recipes accompanying the piece, enough to make the most dedicated vegan pass out. “It’s Jewish bacon,” quips Mitch Prensky, a chef who loves the stiff.

But “Chicken Chicharon” has long been a saturated-fat drenched delicacy among Filipinos, contributing to clogged arteries for generations of Filipinos. Pinoys also have traditional pork chicharon, tuna and salmon skin crackling (allegedly “healthy” due to Omega-3 oils), and if memory serves me right, Capampangans once indulged in Chicharon made from Carabao skin. (Googling Carabao Chicken however, brings up Chicha-Rabao” as a Tuguegerao delicacy.)

Accompanying the article is a whole dressed chicken with the skin on – with fat succulent thighs and enormous breasts. The photographer managed to pose it like a playboy model (and even has a feature in the NYT’s Photo blog that describes the techniques used for the shoot).

It was a sexually suggestive posed chicken, if you can manage to imagine something like that. A Sexy Chicken. And therein lies the genesis of the meme.

When the article went pubic, PETA was outraged – as it would be with any article glorifying the eating of meat.

“When I saw it I just couldn’t believe that an editor of the New York Times would find it acceptable,” said PETA founder and president Ingrid Newkirk to the Atlantic Wire. “It’s necrophilia. It’s not amusing. It’s just ghastly and sickly.”

When the photo appeared on Twitter, it generated a ton of lewd remarks – mainly about the thighs and the breasts. And the PETA reaction didn’t help much once people saw the irony behind it.

PETA after all has been notorious for its use of sex and nude women to promote its ideals (one of its more memorable recent campaigns involved the infamous Sasha Grey promoting pet birth control).

Of course we know the difference between a live human and a piece of meat, but PETA’s over the top complaints just drew more attention to the suggestive photo. It wasn’t long before the photo was everywhere and #sexychicken became a hasthag du jour.

Suddenly, a @NYTChicken Twitter account appeared, making suggestive remarks to all and sundry and having a running conversation with @KFC_Colonel. @NYTChicken now has over a thousand followers. A number of “Sexy Chicken” pages have even cropped up on Facebook as well.

As we all know, Chicken skin is par for the course in any pulutan menu, served with a platito of chili vinegar. But it appears that to many Americans, this is something of a deep dark secret, a sensual but illicit pleasure.

Or just another excuse for another silly meme.

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