The other day, whilst watching a herd of a couple of hundred Cape Buffalo traipse through the open grasslands, someone guest asked me where the term ‘Buffalo wings’ came from. I was completely stumped. Don’t get me wrong, I know what they are and I sure have eaten many a wing, but I did not know the reason as to why a bird should be titled a Buffalo.
Frustratingly, he did not know the answer either! It was one of those ridiculous questions that was asked more in jest than in seriousness, but once it was on my mind I wanted to know the reason. My quest for global knowledge needs to be continually stoked. Upon returning to camp I sat down in front of the computer and started to ‘Google’.
It appears that the first plate of wings was served in 1964 at a family-owned establishment called the Anchor Bar. This restaurant was owned by the Bellissimo family and it is rumoured that the wings started being served to patrons due to the fact that the bar had accidentally received a very large shipment of wings (instead of other chicken parts). They found themselves with far too many chicken wings and so needed to get rid of them. They had to get creative and find a way to make them tasty and look appetizing. The matriarch of the family, Teressa, decided that it would be a good idea to fry the chicken wings and serve them with a secret recipe and concoction of spices. For some reason she added celery sticks to the meal and covered it in a blue cheese dressing. The meal was an instant hit and all the excess wings were sold in no time! The location of the bar…Buffalo City, New York.
Sign at the entrance to the Anchor Bar – Google images
Above — Buffalo Chicken Wings served the original way – Google images.
So there you have it. The famous Buffalo wings are named after the area they came from and have nothing to do with the actual mammal.
For many years, the wings were found only in New York and surrounding areas. Something that delicious, however, can’t be kept a secret forever and by the mid-1980s Buffalo wings had spread across the country. In 1993, a Philadelphia radio station hosted the first annual Wing Bowl eating contest, and over the years it has grown to become one of the competitive-eating circuit’s most prestigious events, drawing crowds well over 20,000. The Wing Bowl record currently belongs to Joey Chestnut, who in 2008 consumed 241 wings in two 14-minute periods.
Makes the mind boggle doesn’t it?
Just to think: all of this new found knowledge was inspired whist watching one of the Big 5 move through the sunset of yet another perfect day in Africa.
A herd of buffalo wallows in the water, whilst a big herd of elephant comes down for a drink
Having a drink
What comes to mind when you think of the term ‘Buffalo Wings’? – Illustration by Kate Neill
Written and photographed by Adam Bannister