As the nation goes mad for Popeyes' new fried chicken sandwich, the Chronicle's critic has weighed in, and she calls it "delicious for what it [is]," but also "a cheap product where the true cost is carried by marginalized people and animals besides the consumer."
Fans of Popeyes are going to roll their eyes at being woke-splained when it comes to their quick and cheap guilty pleasures, and given the much more politically fraught alternative — Chick-fil-A — lots of Bay Area Popeyes fans are thrilled to be able to say they can indulge in a fried chicken sandwich that doesn't get equated with hating LGBTQ people. And Soleil Ho finds enough to like about the Popeyes sandwich ("craggy and well-seasoned" chicken, "exceptional" pickles), despite it just being a basic offering from a national chain that just happens to be having a moment on social media.
But in diligently covering her bases as a contemporary food critic, with food politics and social justice never being far from her thoughts, she also kinda rains on the parade of everyone who's beating a line to Popeyes' door.
The circus [around the sandwich] is ridiculous enough to make one forget about actual kids, the ones whose tear-streaked faces we all watched on television after their parents were detained by ICE at the Mississippi poultry factory that employed them. And consider, for a moment, the life of the factory-farmed chicken that will eventually become a well-seasoned, fried mass at a place like Popeyes. The reality is likely worse than whatever you’ve imagined.
... It seems that, as a culture, many of us who can afford to choose from many options of what to eat vacillate between caring a lot about the welfare of our meat animals and restaurant workers and being willing to put up with anything for the sake of momentary pleasure.
Of course she makes a good point — and when in the Bay Area we celebrate restaurants that try to be 100-percent sustainable and eat In-N-Out burgers made with factory-farmed meat without much guilt all in the same week, the hypocrisy is real.
But you could do this about nearly every food item made by a chain restaurant, and no one actually does this kind of Portlandia-esque research into all their food because the process gets exhausting and sometimes you're just hungry, and poor.
So maybe, if the sandwich isn't directly contributing to the oppression of marginalized communities, can the sandwich just be a good, cheap sandwich?
And meanwhile, you shouldn't believe Yelp which lists the Divisadero Popeyes as still closed after a July health department shutdown. The restaurant reopened within a couple of days, and like other locations (Excelsior, Fillmore/Webster Safeway plaza) has been running out of the chicken sandwich.