I took issue with a book recently. I was trying my best, my level-headed best, to get through a slow historical romance. I slogged along, waiting, hoping, praying for a little action. Not as in sex action, but simply movement. Forward movement. As in a story moving forward rather than running in place with repetitive and boring descriptions of characters (primary, secondary, tertiary, and even nonentities) and settings.
What did I get instead? Tossed out of the story by a pic-a-nik basket filled with fried chicken. Actually the fried chicken was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
I’m a foodie. I know fried chicken.
Although fricasse was used as a method of cooking throughout Europe, fried chicken was not, as a rule, eaten in England in the early 19th Century. In fact, fried chicken was not common in England until the late 20th Century. The English preferred their chickens boiled or baked. It was the Scots who fried chicken in fat and brought that technique with them to the Colonies. In addition, West African cuisine also featured chicken dredged in herbs and spices and fried in palm oil. Thus the culinary traditions of West Africa met the culinary traditions of Scotland – unfortunately via the slave trade in the American South. Ergo… Southern Fried Chicken.
However, I seriously doubt fried chicken would have been found in the pic-a-nik baskets of early 19th Century English nobility. While feasting outdoors, especially during hunts, has been common in Great Britain since medieval times, picnics, as such, didn’t really become popular until Victorian times, i.e., in the 1860′s, when feasting out of doors began to be described as picnicking. (Although the word picnic had been used in France a hundred years earlier to describe what we think of as a potluck.)
Therefore, a picnic basket filled with fried chicken in the early years of the 19th Century stopped me dead in my tracks and the book became an instant DNF. Sorry. It’s really important for historical authors to get their facts right, at least for me.
I would experience the same dissonance if I were reading an historical set in ancient Greece and ran across ~ ”Hey, man, wanna head over to the drive-in and grab a burger?”
Check this out: Hungry History.
And this: Virginia Fried Chicken.