Do you wash your Chicken?

It’s been a while since I posted the infamous chicken poll, and with moving I lost track of it. But, if you were surprised here is (part) of why I posted about it.

We all learn from a variety of sources of how to live in the world and majority of the time we never even think about it. It just, IS what you do. Trouble is, not all of us learn the same things. The question of do you wash your chicken came from a lesson I had in culinary school. Some students always went to wash our meat, whereas others distinctly did not. Most were shocked to find out, and often disgusted, at what the other did and upon looking into it, I noticed a trend.

So, Who Washes their chicken?

If you were from a:

  • Black/minority
  • Southern american
  • Poor

Family, you were increasingly likely to wash you chicken. The more of those options you had the more likely you were at least taught to wash your chicken/meat.

If you were from a:

  • White/European decent
  • Well off
  • Northern american

Family, You’d never dream of washing it.

Why is this a thing?

After lots of thought, I think it comes down to a few different factors.

  • Offal/discount meat
  • Science vs family knowledge
  • Cleanliness
  • Close relationships with slaves

Historically the poor have always been giving the worse parts of food. In this country in particular, the least privileged population was slaves and so they were given what one might call, bullshit. It was from these inexpensive, slightly off, unwanted foods that some of the worlds best dishes were created. These dishes require a greater understanding of food, cleanliness and food processing. Otherwise, it could sicken and kill you.

Or worse, It’s terrible.

Discount meats are often less fresh, butchered poorly, and possibly from unsanitary conditions. Offal, is known for being difficult to work with, since it requires more work upfront. This work is mostly cleaning and prepping.

With Black Americans being an oral culture this knowledge of how to treat meats has been passed down through the ages. If you are considered irresponsible, or inept, you simply aren’t allowed to cook. Somethings you don’t question because that’s the old knowledge and without it no one will trust you. You’ll be told to “bring plates”. One of these things is to wash meats.

Culture matters!

Some people cited the CDC about the why shouldn’t wash meat… but for many the oral culture’s knowledge surpasses today’s science. That being said, majority of the great Black cooks I know, clean. A LOT. Particularly when dealing with raw meat. Cleaning products are regularly rotated, and every surface is cleaned about three times with various products, moments after touching raw meats. Children are taught the importance of cleaning before they learn to cook and some dishes are prepared exclusively outside.

The long standing joke around not eating at work potlucks is not only because of white folk putting things like blueberries in Mac and cheese, but more often it’s really a deep unease around differences in cleanliness.* Sometimes an exception can be made for white folks who grew up poor or in the south or near minorities, as they often have the same practices around food. Including seasoning.

So whether or not you wash your chicken is just one of the many ways that we differ for a variety of reasons. Question everything you assume about the expereinces of others. You may be surprised to find out the “truth”.


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