A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from March 10, 2009
“Tastes like chicken”

"Tastes like chicken” is a line that has often been used to describe the flavor of exotic meats. The phrase is cited in print from at least 1877.

The comic use and popularization of the phrase “tastes like chicken” is probably the result of a 1988 comedy routine by Bronx-born comedian and actor Robert Klein. Klein told about how all the unusual animals on a menu were described to him as having a taste just like chicken. Klein toured the country and appeared on television with the “tastes like chicken” routine. By the early 1990s, the “tastes like chicken” phrase began to appear frequently on the internet.

“Tastes like cardboard” is another popular phrase about taste. “Of all the things that ‘taste like chicken’, eggs are ironically not one of them” is a related saying.


Wikipedia: Tastes like chicken
When trying to describe the flavor of a food the listener has never eaten, a common declaration is that it tastes like chicken. The expression has been used so often that it has become somewhat of a cliché. As a result, the phrase also sometimes gets used for incongruous humor, by being deployed for foods or situations to which it has no real relevance.

History
As an explanation of why unusual meats would taste more like chicken than common alternatives such as beef or pork, different possibilities have been offered. One suggestion is that chicken has a bland taste because fat contributes more flavor than muscle (especially in the case of a lean cut such as a skinless chicken breast), making it a generic choice for comparison. Also, chicken reportedly has lower levels of glutamates that contribute to the “savory” aspect of taste sometimes known as umami; processing or tenderizing other meats would also lower glutamate levels and make them taste more like chicken.

Another suggestion, made by Joe Staton of the Museum of Comparative Zoology, is that meat flavors are fixed based on the evolutionary origin of the animal. Accordingly, birds (the most numerous form of meat by type) would naturally taste more like chicken than mammals. Furthermore, based on evidence for dinosaurs as the ancestors of birds, reptile meat might also taste somewhat like chicken. Seafood, however, would logically have a more distinctive flavor. Staton’s study of the question was published in the Annals of Improbable Research.

Animals that are said to taste like chicken
Alligator
Fried spider
Frog legs
Mountain chicken
Opossum
Rabbit (especially domestic rabbit)
Rat
Rattlesnake
Squirrel
Turkey

Wikipedia: Robert Klein
Robert Klein (born February 8, 1942) is an American stand-up comedian and actor.

25 April 1877, Edwardsville (IL) Intelligencer, pg. 2, col. 7:
Rat flesh is not bad dining at least so say those who have tried it, our knowledge in the matter being limited. It is delicate, white, firm tastes like chicken, and in China the soup made from it is considered to be equal to our well known ox tail.

19 July 1891, Wheeling (WV) Register, pg. 6:
CATS AND TOADS.
MRS. JOHN SHERWOOD TELLS OF QUEER
THINGS THAT ARE EATEN.
(...)
In exile, in Mexico and Florida, the Spaniard eats alligators, which could scarcely be called a game bird; but the flesh of young alligators’ tails is very fair, and tastes like chicken if the tail is cut off immediately after death and stewed.

OCLC WorldCat record
It tastes like chicken
by W V Quine
Type:  Book; English
Publisher: [New Haven, Conn. : Furioso Press, 1951]

OCLC WorldCat record
Eat ya!
by Lone Wolves (Musical group)
Type:  Musical LP : Rock music; English
Publisher: Roma : Helter Skelter, 1973.
Material Type: Music
Document Type: Sound Recording
Notes: Punk rock music. Disc pressed on clear vinyl. “Watch out for bonus track"--Container sticker.
Description: 1 sound disc (33 min.) : analog, 33 1/3 rpm, stereo. ; 12 in.
Contents: Who—Tastes like chicken—Wild love—Moon slime-- Dr. Mad—Killer—Hear my howl—EG—The way—City of hope—Eeny meany—Lone wolf.

24 September 1981, Logansport (IN) Pharos-Tribune, “Think Quick” by L. M. Boyd, pg. 19, col. 7:
If it’s exotic flesh, somebody is going to say it tastes like chicken, count on that. The lizard called the iguana tastes like chicken, I’m told.

4 May 1988, St. Louis (MO) Post-Dispatch, “Veteran Comic Keeping Busy,” You magazine, pg. 5:
‘’Tastes Like Chicken’’ will be (Robert—ed.) Klein’s first album since 1975.

9 April 1988, Philadelphia (PA) Inquirer, “With wry, urban wit, Robert Klein prevails; the comedian and talk-show host brings his stand-up routine to Wilmington tonight,” daily magazine, pg. D1:
“‘It tastes like chicken.’ Frogs legs - ‘Tastes like chicken.’ Rabbit - ‘Tastes like chicken.’ “

Google Groups: rec.music.synth
Newsgroups: rec.music.synth
From: (Edgar C. Lecuyer)
Date: 20 Feb 91 02:08:55 GMT
Local: Tues, Feb 19 1991 9:08 pm
Subject: The Sponge Awareness Foundation

May I recomend “The Sponge Awareness Foundation’s” new tape…
Looks Like Rain… Tastes Like Chicken
a 60 minute cassette of synthesized satirical comedy.

Google Groups: alt.folklore.urban
Newsgroups: alt.folklore.urban
From: (DOS: Tastes like chicken when properly prepared.)
Date: 28 Feb 91 23:56:03 GMT
Local: Thurs, Feb 28 1991 6:56 pm
Subject: Re: Desert Storm ULs

Google Groups: alt.support
Newsgroups: alt.support
From: (Richard Karasik)
Date: 5 Apr 91 22:12:25 GMT
Local: Fri, Apr 5 1991 5:12 pm
Subject: Re: Truth Telling

You might look at this experience as being at the affect of a collapsed distinction. (a mouthful) Sort of like you’ve been told everything that is strange white meat “tastes like chicken” for so long that you really cant distinguish them at all -even though they are different to people with collapsed distinctions.

4 August 1991, New York (NY) Times, book review, pg. BR13:
If It Tastes Like Chicken, Avoid It
By Elizabeth Crow
WHEN YOU LOOK LIKE YOUR PASSPORT PHOTO, IT’S TIME TO GO HOME
By Erma Bombeck
256 pp. New York:
HarperCollins Publishers.
$19.95

(...)
Her advice to “beware of food that is described as, ‘Some Americans say it tastes like chicken,’” should be printed on passports for the gastronomically timid.

OCLC WorldCat record
Tastes like chicken
by Dan Slott; Mike Kazaleh; Carlos Lopez; Fabian Micieza
Type:  Book; English
Publisher: New York : Marvel Comics, ©1993.
Related Subjects: Chihuahua (Dog breed)—Humor. | Dogs—Humor. | Cats—Humor.

OCLC WorldCat record
Tastes like chicken
by Meices (Musical group)
Type:  Musical CD : Rock music; English
Publisher: New York : External, 1994.

OCLC WorldCat record
Potty mouth
by Tastes Like Chicken (Musical group)
Type:  Musical CD : Rock music; English
Publisher: Toledo, OH : Schlong Song Productions, 1995.

Google Books
Tastes Like Chicken
By Lolita Files
New York, NY: Simon and Schuster
2004

(Trademark)
Word Mark TASTES LIKE CHICKEN
Goods and Services IC 041. US 100 101 107. G & S: entertainment in the nature of a live musical group. FIRST USE: 19961207. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 19970913
Mark Drawing Code (1) TYPED DRAWING
Serial Number 75358633
Filing Date September 17, 1997
Current Filing Basis 1A
Original Filing Basis 1A
Published for Opposition September 1, 1998
Registration Number 2205490
Registration Date November 24, 1998
Owner (REGISTRANT) Corney, William H. INDIVIDUAL UNITED STATES 163 Hillman Ave. Glen Rock NEW JERSEY 07452
Type of Mark SERVICE MARK
Register PRINCIPAL
Affidavit Text SECT 8 (6-YR).
Live/Dead Indicator LIVE

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityFood/Drink • Tuesday, March 10, 2009 • Permalink