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Why is city chicken called city chicken when it’s pork?

When you hear the term “city chicken,” you might imagine a scrappy bird running around in an urban environment. But in reality, city chicken is a dish made from pork that originated in various rust belt cities like Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and Cincinnati. Despite its name, city chicken doesn’t contain any chicken at all. The question is, why is it called city chicken then?

In this blog post, we’ll take a deep dive into the history of city chicken to understand why it’s called the way it is.

The Origins of City Chicken

City chicken is believed to have originated in the early 1900s in various rust belt cities where pork and veal were more affordable than chicken. People in industrial areas had limited access to chickens, which were mainly raised in rural areas. The dish was developed as a way to make do with the cheaper cuts of pork and veal and create a dish that tasted like chicken.

The dish is typically made by trimming the fat from cubes of pork or veal and threading them onto skewers. The skewers are then breaded and fried to give them a crispy exterior. City chicken was the perfect meal for working-class families who wanted something tasty and affordable to feed their families.

The Theory Behind the Name

There are several stories behind the name of city chicken. One theory suggests that this dish was called “city chicken” because it was a substitution for fried chicken when that was too expensive or hard to obtain in cities. Another theory is that the name came from the fact that the meat is cut into strips that resemble chicken legs or drumsticks on skewers.

Yet another theory proposes that the name comes from a song popular in the early 1900s. “Chicken Reel” was a song and dance that featured a tune with quick, repetitive melodies. It’s easy to see how the dish might have been associated with the catchy tune.

Regardless of the true origin of the name, city chicken remains a popular and beloved dish in various cities throughout the Midwest.

City Chicken vs. Similar Dishes

City chicken isn’t the only dish that aims to replicate the taste of chicken with another protein. Beef and chicken are two common proteins that often try to replicate the taste of chicken. These dishes are usually cheaper than chicken and can be more accessible in different parts of the world.

Chicken-fried steak is a popular Southern dish that is similar to city chicken. The dish consists of a thin cut of beef that is breaded and fried, similar to city chicken. However, chicken-fried steak is typically served with gravy and mashed potatoes, while city chicken is usually served on its own or with a side of vegetables.

Another popular dish is mock chicken. Mock chicken is a vegetarian dish made from soy, chicken seasoning, and vegetable protein. The dish aims to replicate the taste of chicken while staying true to a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle.

In Conclusion

City chicken may not contain chicken, but its history and popularity make it a dish worth trying. Theories behind the origin of the name vary, but the dish’s affordability and tasty flavor make it a staple for many living in rust belt cities in the Midwest. Whether you’re making it at home or trying it for the first time at a local restaurant, we hope this blog post has given you a better understanding of why city chicken is called city chicken when it’s pork.


Why do they call pork city chicken?

The term “city chicken” is a bit misleading, as it actually refers to a dish made with cubes of meat that are skewered and then fried or baked. Despite its name, the dish does not contain any chicken at all; instead, it is typically made with pork or veal.

There are different theories on where the name “city chicken” comes from. One theory is that it was called chicken during the Depression era because it was one of many mock-chicken products that were more affordable than the real thing. At that time, chicken was a luxury that many people couldn’t afford, so they looked for ways to create dishes that tasted like chicken but were made with cheaper meats. Another theory is that the dish was named after the skewers that it is traditionally cooked on, which resemble thin chicken drumsticks.

City chicken is particularly popular in Pittsburgh and other parts of Pennsylvania, as well as in Michigan and New York, which have deep Polish and Ukrainian roots. The dish requires a bit of preparation, as the meat needs to be cut into cubes, seasoned, then skewered on wooden sticks before being cooked. It can be cooked in a variety of ways, including frying, baking, or grilling.

Regardless of where the name comes from, city chicken is a delicious and budget-friendly dish that is often served with a variety of sides, such as mashed potatoes, green beans, or corn. It is a testament to the ingenuity of cooks who were able to create flavorful and satisfying dishes during tough economic times.

Why is pork not called pig?

The reason why pork is not called pig can be traced back to the Norman Conquest of England in 1066. At that time, the English language was heavily influenced by French, which was spoken by the Normans, who were of Viking origin but had settled in what is now northern France.

When the Normans conquered England, they brought their own words for the animals they used for meat, such as cows and pigs. However, while the English language had words for these animals, those words were typically used to refer to the live animals, while the Norman French words were used to refer to the meat after it was slaughtered.

One of the Norman French words for pig was “pork,” which is derived from the Old French word “porc.” Similarly, the Norman French word for cow was “boef,” which became the English word “beef.”

Over time, this linguistic division between the live animals and the meat began to fade, and today the English language tends to use the same word for both the live animal and the meat from that animal. However, the names of certain meats, such as pork, beef, and veal, still reflect their Norman French origins.

The reason why pork is not called pig is because of the influence of Norman French on the English language during the Middle Ages. As a result of this influence, certain animals came to be known by different names in English than they were in the French-derived words used to refer to their meat.