Recipes and many historians believe that Scottish chicken frying techniques (lard and no seasoning) and West African chicken pan frying techniques (palm oil, lots of seasoning) were combined by enslaved African and African-Americans in the antebellum South and, thusly, fried chicken as we know it was born.
Is it possible that someone happened to put a deliciously, golden crispy slice of fried chicken between two slices of bread with a couple pickles during that time? Yes. In fact, ads found in newspapers for fried chicken sandwiches pre-date the time period that Chick-fil-A claims to have invented it.
It’s great marketing on Chick-fil-A’s part, but faulty history. The inventor of the fried chicken sandwich is (probably) just as shrouded and forgotten in history’s greasy pages as the inventor of fried chicken itself — or dumplings, or empanadas for that matter. It’s become such a staple in our cuisine it’s hard to pinpoint its advent to one person.
And, while the fried chicken sandwich has thrusted its way into cultural ubiquity, its roots are marred in Jim Crow-era racism. Post Civil War, African American individuals weren’t allowed to raise expensive meats (such as steak and pork) so were relegated to rearing chickens, which is how the stereotype of associating African Americans with the dish came about. It was often all they could make, so they made the best of it.
But over time the delicious appeal of fried chicken spread its proverbial wings and took flight into the hearts of Americans everywhere. It’s hard to deny the combination of fatty cuts of chicken, marinated in buttermilk, dredged in spices and batter, and then deep fried in oil as anything other than delicious.