If you are really going to celebrate National Chicken Nugget Day, there’s really only one place to go: McDonald’s. They did not invent the Chicken Nugget, but they did make them popular after they began selling them in the 1980’s. When they first arrived on the scene (yes, I remember that), I was excited for this invention because I was a big fan of chicken and I was not a huge fan of McDonald’s burgers (filed under “Dan’s hatred of mustard”). When McNuggets arrived on the scene, it gave me the opportunity to enjoy a meat product to go along with my already professed love of salty fries at the Golden Arches. While we may now be aware of the nefarious ingredients that are hiding inside a McNugget, back then (and even now), you couldn’t deny that these crispy little pieces of chicken were packed with flavor. Crunchy on the outside, nice and meaty on the inside, sufficiently salty for all your needs. I’m not too proud to say it, but I enjoy a good McNugget every now and then.
According to Wikipedia, the chicken nugget was invented in the 1950s by a food science professor at Cornell University named Robert C. Baker. It was Baker’s innovations that made it possible to form chicken nuggets in any shape. I guess that makes him the Patron Saint of McNuggets which I’m sure is exactly what it says on his gravestone. He basically turned chicken and chicken parts into a moldable, cookable substance. Again, that’s a good thing as long as you don’t do a deep dive into the ingredients. He kind of changed the world so much so that whole generations have grown up with chicken nuggets as the choice for dinner on the kid’s menu at almost every restaurant. Millennials and Generation Y’ers were raised on chicken nuggets. Maybe that explains a few things. I was not raised that way, but was excited when they came along when I was a young teen new to the world of fast food, finger-sized chicken and dipping sauces.
I headed out for lunch today to McDonald’s to get my McNugget fix for the holiday. While the city of Warwick has plenty of fast food options, there is no real fast food in Warwick because there is no fast way to get to a fast food restaurant, especially McDonald’s. Most of these spots fall on a an overdeveloped street called Bald Hill Road which is a traffic nightmare. It’s stop and go traffic all the time between the gaggle of traffic lights, the murder of bad drivers and the pride of crazed shoppers. You can’t get any place fast. It’s really a test of patience. Mickey D’s is probably just over a mile away from my office but a fifteen-minute drive. I got there eventually and pulled up to the drive-thru window. I’m not sure when, but on the McDonald’s value menu, the typical serving portion for McNuggets are the ten-piece size. It used to be a six-piece which made me wonder why we upped the game. I imagine this falls under the category of gluttony that skewed the sizes of sodas for at fast food restaurants forever, but I went with the ten-piece. I pulled up to the first window and paid and then waited to be able to pull up to the second window to get my food. The car in front of me asked for a fancy coffee drink at the last minute in addition to her regular order and while they were making that for her, the pick-up line came to a halt. Eventually, it was my turn. I was handed my bag of food, my soda and I was back out into the hell that is Bald Hill Road.
I wasn’t that anxious to bring back a big bag of McDonald’s to eat at my desk (no one wants to get earmarked as the McDonald’s lunch guy), so I decided to pull off into a parking lot and enjoy my feast there. I parked at the very end of a shopping center lot with no one around. I munched away at my nuggets which were just as I remembered. Crunchy, moist on the inside, the resemblance of chicken flavor in every bite along with the recommended daily allowance for salt. I am not a dipping sauce fan so I was eating these plain and soon, between the taste of the fried chicken and the French fries, my belly had that too-full feeling. Then my solace of McShame was interrupted by some old woman in a car. I saw her pull in the lot and she started driving around slowly and confusedly. My spider senses were tingling. Then she eventually came to a full stop just two spaces over from where I was parked in my own tranquility. We were within eye contact distance. This infuriated me. If you could see the overhead shot of this scene you would share my anger. She didn’t do anything. She just stayed in her car looking out and she never made any indication that she knew I was there. But I knew she was there and my nugget party had come to an early end. I tossed my remaining nuggets and uneaten fries into the bag, crumpled it up and then drove away giving my parking lot encroacher the evil eye.
Today was not a celebration that I’m particularly proud of but in the end, I still think the chicken nugget deserves our praises. It came from an innovative food scientist who was trying to make life easier and tastier. Who could foresee where the nugget would go? The restaurant people who embraced the nugget are all smiles now – a cheap product that uses up scraps, tastes good and people keep coming back for is all you could ever want in a fast food item. Getting a generation of youth hooked on these morsels of white meat is a goldmine and McDonald’s knows this. But I’m no snob. I like a chicken nugget just as much as the next guy. I was on board with them from the get-go. So today, I raise my nugget as a toast to the goodness and smiles they have delivered! McCheers!
Next up: National Spicy Guacamole Day