My mom cooked many memorable dishes over the years that my dad and I would devour eagerly, but when we wanted take-out, we gravitated to Pioneer Chicken. I have such vivid memories of the simple joy of sinking my teeth into the extra crunchy batter, which seemed to have a hint of nutmeg, and letting the greasy coating and the meat almost melt into my mouth. The quirky logo is forever burned into my brain, and the heavenly smell and taste of that fried chicken is one of my fonder childhood memories.
My mom would call the order in and my dad would go to pick it up. My stomach would be growling with anticipation. We would always order white meat and breasts and drumsticks, no pesky wings. There were fluffy rolls and mashed potatoes with gravy, but they were easily forgotten. After a brief supper prayer, all hands descended upon the golden chicken and a series of slurps, smacks and chewing ensued.
But the best part of those fried chicken meals was the fact that my dad was always worried about his cholesterol, despite being at least a pack-a-day smoker. So he would “discard” his crispy chicken skin onto a plate in the middle of the table, and my mom and I would help ourselves to those greasy, calorie-laden bits of yumminess. Afterwards, we would rip open the lemon-scented hand wipes that came with the meal and erase the grease from our hands, while we enjoyed the lingering effects of our food comas.
Alas, “real” fried chicken will forever be a memory for me, as I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease years ago and have to be on a gluten-free diet. And I have naturally gravitated to a more vegetarian diet over the years. But as a child, Pioneer Fried Chicken was the ultimate junk food. I definitely preferred it over a McDonald’s happy meal. Food can definitely bring a family together.
And if I’ve whetted anyone’s appetite for the Pioneer Chicken experience, The franchise was sold in the 1990’s and most locations were converted into Popeye’s stores. But there are still a few Pioneer locations open in California, though I’ve heard some are not offering the authentic fried chicken recipe. Where can you find the real Pioneer Chicken? In China, where the chain goes by the name, “California Chicken.”