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About a week ago, I got to serve as chief cook and bottle washer for a poverty immersion experience that my wife Jan led in downtown Raleigh. One of the activities involves a meal at which participants draw popsicle sticks to be assigned to a country, and are served a modest meal typical of a poor person’s fare in that land (except for the lone American, who gets a steak).

For people from Africa, where I’ve seen poor folks happy to get mealie pop and chicken feet, I tried to prepare a similar dish. I had genuine mealie pop (“Super Sun Super Maize Meal” brand) brought from South Africa by some friends, but chicken feet are hard to find and I was afraid nobody would eat them, so I settled for wings. The “table” for Africa got one boiled chicken wing apiece, served with a central bowl of pop (like grits, except much finer, and stiff enough to eat with the fingers).

The problem is that you can’t just go to most supermarkets and buy four chicken wings: the smallest pack I could find had 14, leaving me with 10 left over. After looking at them in the refrigerator for a few days, I decided to experiment with making buffalo wings.

I checked the Internet for a good recipe, and was surprised to learn there are many approaches. All involve marinating the wings in a potion of hot sauce for some time, but some call for broiling, others for frying, and at least one (Alton Brown’s from the Food Network site) insisted that they needed to be steamed for 10 minutes before being chilled for an hour.

I decided to try both ways, broiling some and frying some. Both turned out OK, though the fried ones would have been better if I’d started them on a lower heat. Our family is not a big fan of really hot stuff, so I skipped the last step of basting or tossing in more hot sauce, and let each person dip or coat as they would.

For added adventure, I removed the wing tips and cooked them for stock before adding onions, celery, and penne pasta for what I dubbed “Wingy penne pasta,” but nobody other than me would eat it. The wings themselves were a bit more popular.

One of my favorite biblical texts is from Exodus 19:1-6, where God tells Moses to remind the Israelites how he had borne them “on wings of eagles” in bringing them out of Egypt and to himself.

I love the thought of riding on eagle’s wings. Most days, however, we’re more familiar with wings of chickens. So it goes.

[If anyone would like to share their favorite chicken wing recipe, feel free to post it here.]

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