It’s neglectful to declare Nashville’s best bird a mere “weekly” obsession.
Nay, hot chicken is more than that. It’s an every-week preoccupation, a craving that’s driven Yo La Tengo to write songs and brought a professional TV eater to town for a taste.
The fiery poultry haunts the minds of all who have dared to digest it, and the craving strikes at the worst moments — usually on Mondays, when the numerous shacks take a break from basting birds with the piquant paste.
On July 4 — coincidentally, a Monday in 2011 — we take a break to praise our most famous hen and declare our collective civic independence from mere fried chicken. For the fifth time, the Nashville Hot Chicken Festival will set up shop in East Park on Independence Day from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The festival was the brainchild of former Mayor Bill Purcell, the Pennsylvania-native-turned-hot-chicken-evangelist who proved once again that there’s no zealot like a convert. It was Purcell who coined the Great Edict of Hot Chicken: “Order it hot. No one goes to a medium-chicken shack.”
As high tradition dictates, the first 500 attendees will get free samples from the originators at Prince’s, the classic Bolton’s, rising star 400 Degrees, newcomer Pepperfire and hot chicken’s Murfreesboro missionary, The Chicken Shack.
Late-risers need not fret, as all the shacks will, of course, have bird for sale. Once again, there will be an amateurs’ contest, with mimetic homecookers vying for the top ranks.
Of-age patrons in need of a cooling local quaff can take a break inside Yazoo’s tent, for what is a better match for Nashville’s most celebrated culinary export than a Gulch-made brew?
New this year is title sponsor Piedmont Natural Gas, which lauds itself as “Nashville’s oldest continuously operated business.” Piedmont, a bastion of the business world, makes sense to couple with the poultry purveyors: Both specialize in a flammable substance without which our local economy could not survive.
Hyperbole? Only to those who have yet to fall victim to the spicy siren.