Conventional wisdom demands that Buffalo Wings were first invented at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, New York. This is a benign story that neatly fits into an epistemologically narrow worldview, but like most racistly simplistic yarns, it relies on half-truths, innuendo, and overt generalizations.
The true story, rather, springs to life some 95 miles east/southeast of Buffalo, in the town of Canandaigua, a sleepy little fishing village that anchors a lake by the same name in upstate New York’s Finger Lakes region (also affectionately known as “America’s Gall Bladder”).
There a Native American man by the name of Morningstar T. Buffalo created the scintillating dish we know as Buffalo Wings, thus ensuring that millions of Americans each year will eat at least one vegetable during the months of September through February, even if it is in the form of a limp celerey stick slathered in bleu cheese dressing.
Mr. Buffalo, or “Alan ‘Three Tits’ McKenzie” as he was known by those who knew him intimately (little is known of the etymology surrounding this nickname, though one can postulate a portion of it refers to the superfluous nipple he was quite proud of), worked by night at Studs McGee’s Fish Fry, Wax Museum, and Roadhouse Saloon, where he was simultaneously associate saute/fry cook and barista emeritus. During the day he delivered the New York Post to shut-ins and invalids, often helping them craft argumentive diatribes replete with logical fallacies for posting on Internet message boards.
At his night job, Mr. Buffalo commonly fried up large portions of battered marine creatures that were native to the nearby lake, including perch, stingrays, and piranhas (also referred to in the local patois as “Canadian Ditch Oysters”). This lakefood, while delicious and nutritious, left a strong scent on the hands of whomever handled them. The biggest offender of all was the Canandaiguan striped barrucada, some of which would often jump so high that many a mariner had met an untimetly death during a fortnight of lake divining, speared by the fish’s bill that commonly grew to the size of pole vaults.
To rid his hands of this itinerant lake funk, Mr. Buffalo maintained a large Big Gulp full of Frank’s Red Hot pepper sauce as part of his mise en place. While Trappey’s and certain Mexican brands (anything except the habanero extra hot sauce, which most certainly solved the issue but also stripped the hand of much of its capillaries) would defenestrate the perch and piranha stench, Frank’s Red Hot, he found, was the only solution that could also simultaneously strip the scent of the Canandaiguan striped barrucada. (Tabasco, incidentally, had no effect, which was why it was the only hot pepper sauce available to the customers).
Periodically throughout the shift, Buffalo would submerge his right hand (the only hand used to handle raw lakefood) into the Big Gulp of Frank’s Red Hot, and allow it to marinade for 5 seconds before continuing his frying and sauteeing. The associate steward — a position Mr. Buffalo held himself for 5 years before a miniature golfing accident left him unable to lift 100 lbs or more — would replenish the Frank’s Red Hot pepper sauce throughout the night.
As was customary for all line cooks at the establishment, Mr. Buffalo also kept a Big Gulp of “lake sauce” handy to quench his thirst throughout the shift. Depending on the time of the day, this usually consisted of tepid coffee, Red Bull, mescaline, Fresca, charcoal filtered gin, or any combination thereof.
During one particularly frayed evening, a group of rabid octegenarians (who were touring the nearby Corningware plant in Corning, NY, and thus had been doing tequila shots since an hour before sundown) visited on an off-night and had put Buffalo “deep in the weeds” (as they say in the industry. Another colloquialism: “Totally ready for a sphincter massage”). In his harried state, Buffalo knocked over the vat of melted butter he was using to fry up 30 consecutive orders of Canadian Ditch Oysters, creating a state of “deep weeds, further into”. As he confusedly attempted to reassemble his station, he took a long, hard drag from his lake sauce. But unbeknownst to Buffalo, he was actually drinking from his Frank’s Red Hot funk eliminator, which had been cut with equal amounts of melted butter. At first, he didn’t notice, as the taste wasn’t initially all that different from certain recent incarnations of his daily imbibe (the bartender had been going through an Abstract Expressionism phase).
Once he had realized what he actually was drinking, and the sudden burst of energy and sense of well-being it gave him, he went bottoms up, and proceeded to turn 30 covers in an instant, thus quelling the slow-developing riot that was fomenting in the main dining room (some of the patrons at this point had wandered over to the wax musuem and had taken to fornicating with a life-size replica statue of Tab Hunter).
Inspired by this “peanut-butter-in-chocolate” moment, and amazed by the potency of the combination of hot sauce and melted butter, Buffalo quickly put his mind to work on how he could create a dish utilizing his newfound discovery. The obvious first candidates, natch, were among the abundancy that swam in the lake just outside his window. However, this proved to be problematic, as while Frank’s Red Hot had a neutralizing effect on the stank emanating from the Canandaiguan striped barrucada when it was handled in the raw, in its cooked state it had the opposite effect. The barracuda tenders, while firm and moist and highly appetizing in appearance, would reek ever so slightly of raw sewage being filtered through week-old underwear crossed with a horse’s armpit. Other lake fare, including Candadian Ditch Oysters, perch and even miniature toy manatees (like crab, a lot of work but oh so worth the effort) proved to be a texture issue — they did not stand up to the aggressive seasoning of Frank’s Red Hot and pure butter. He needed something that was on the bone, not a filet.
Undeterred, Buffalo moved on to land animals, starting with the flying tree possums that dotted the region, which were technically endangered but such a nuisance that he thought nobody would mind (being drawn to only the slightest, initial state of human perspiration, these possums later would routinely stalk and attack middle-aged soccer moms post-workout once they exited their local “Curves” franchise). And while the animal produced a delicious forearm, Buffalo understood, though, that — despite being a skilled tracker and killer of endangered flying tree possums — if the dish was successful, he would quickly encounter supply chain management issues (this was a good three decades before decent ERP software existed). Onward he went: turtle necks (too gamey), raccoon jowls (boring), mink tails (too many bones), quail rectums (not enough meat).
It was only after reading a Communist pamphlet on factory farming (and realizing that another bird — the quail — was quite tasty) that a light bulb flickered on in Buffalo’s brain. Why not the chicken? Plentiful, cheap. The “other” white meat. (Prior to the Pork Council, who co-opted this moniker as their own, “the” white meat at the time was the albino pygmy Holstein that were prolific as the day was long. That is, until the Great American Angry Udder Epidemic of ’65 reduced their numbers to less than two dozen. The remaining herd all live to this day outside of Saskatoon and are guarded around the clock by a cadre of Royal Mounties).
And it helped that chickens were delivered daily to his restaurant whole, and they cut up and used every part of the bird in various pot pies, hashes, confits, and sous vides, save for the wing, which they fed to the javelinas. After frying up a batch, he tried shoving this forgotten piece, with its awkward, near 120 degree angles, into his mouth with one hand. However, the tip of the wing poked him in the eye and aggravated his cataract. It was only in a fit of frustration, when he angrily snapped the wing at the joint into two pieces, that it dawned on him. Break at the joints, and discard the tip. The resulting two pieces were small enough, with just the right amount of surface area, to intermingle with the sauce. There was the prerequisite bone, and each piece featured enough meat to be eaten in a bite or two. This was something saloon patrons could easily devour by the dozen as they watched the latest cricket and lawn bowling matches on television. More importantly, he himself could snack on these convenient wings during his free time, perched atop a 60-foot spruce in the Finger Lakes National Forest, staking out flying tree possums.
(ed. It should be noted, for historical purposes, that javelinas, aka the Ontarian musk hog, inevitably were systematically hunted and destroyed when they soon became weary of an adjusted diet of pointless chicken wing tips, and started eating house pets and small children.)
And thus the Buffalo wing was born. It was only a short time thereafter that the wings were featured as the “Meat du Jour” at Studs McGee’s Roadhouse Saloon, and they were such a hit that the wings were chronicled shortly thereafter in the Rochester Daily Statesman (though the overzealous headline editor wrote a lede, “Indian Man Rapes Chicken!”, that belied the generally positive tone of the article itself). This positive press caught the eye of the owner of Buffalo’s Anchor Bar, who was vacationing in Canandaigua for the yearly Mennonite Midget Tossing Festival.
It was at this point he paid a visit to Morningstar T. Buffalo, in the kitchen of Studs McGee’s Fish Fry, Wax Musuem, Roadhouse Saloon, and Nail Parlor (by this point in time McGee’s mail order bride had arrived from Vietnam). And in the proud tradition of these United States, in an average fit of Manifest Destiny, the white man usurped the Buffalo wing as his own. He introduced them in his bar back in Buffalo (the Canadian border city, not the man) upon his return, and was aided and abetted by the same ambitious headline writer at the Rochester Daily Statesman, who issued an A1 correction under the headline “Buffalo Bar Owner Inspires Canadaiguan Indian to Dance with Flying Possum”.
Nobody heard from Morningstar T. Buffalo again. Some say he returned to tracking and skinning the flying tree possum and making good money slaughtering Ontarian musk hogs, selling their pelts to drunk octogenarians as they passed through the sleepy fishing village of Canadaigua on their way home from Corning. There had been reports that he dropped out of the industry altogether and reappeared in the late seventies as one of three concurrent bass players for the band “Grandpa Fuckin Spaceshuttle” that pioneered the subgenre of psychedelic polka speed metal. Others say he simply vanished, a bitter, jaded and disillusioned shell of a man. But in actuality he moved on to the Pittsford Wegman’s, where he works the gourmet cheese counter and occasionally sprays down the produce whenever the automatic irrigation hoses get clogged.