“I don’t like their politics, but damn do they make a good fried chicken sandwich.”
Every human who’s ever discussed the anti-LGBTQ donation history of Chick-fil-A has heard this. Many of us have said it (myself included). It’s a thing people repeat when discussing the company, spoken in the same definitive tone as “never put ketchup on hot dogs” and “ranch is trash.” It’s a semi-joke — edged with truth, considering that Chick-fil-A ends up atop just about every power ranking of fast food fried chicken sandwiches ever published — that I’ve heard made by straight friends, gay friends, and queer friends. Almost to the point that it’s become accepted wisdom.
It’s also total nonsense, no matter who says it. Sure, on a flavor level, it is a good sandwich. It’s straightforward, featuring tender chicken breast, lightly breaded, with pickles and a buttered bun. The company uses peanut oil, which is a nice choice. But do you know how easy it is to make a good fried chicken sandwich? There is perhaps no culinary task so exceedingly simple as making fried chicken taste delicious. It’s absolutely on par with creating “the best peanut butter and jelly on earth.” And for this culinary marvel, for this astounding construction of nuanced flavors, for this fusion of technique, style, and presentation, we’re supposed to look past the fact that Chick-fil-A has consistently donated to organizations that don’t share in the belief that there should be equality in America?
No, we shouldn’t. Not just because it’s a morally weak position but also because there’s no need. Top Chef‘s Richard Blais has opened five Crack Shacks slinging fried chicken in just a few years, with more on the way. The food is unarguably better and Richard Blais loves LGBTQ people. Okay, fine, his sandwiches cost more. How about this: McDonald’s does a fried chicken sandwich that’s in the same flavor ballpark and they’re far more transparent about their food sourcing (hitting their planned benchmarks and operating in lockstep with US National Chicken Council). Or better still, get your fried chicken fix met at a local joint. Have you been to Acme Feed & Seed in Nashville? It’s spectacular and they have bands playing nightly. What about Howlin’ Rays in LA? People stand in lines around the block just to visit that spot. Or Buxton Hall in Ashville, NC — where you can also score a whole dang pie?
The sky is the limit and this dish is ubiquitous across the country. Download Yelp. You don’t need to make moral concessions to eat fried chicken sandwiches. You don’t need to spend time pondering whether the purity clause banning all “homosexual acts” in the employee contracts for The Fellowship of Christian Athletes — which Chick-fil-A donated $1,653,416 to — is something you should bother boycotting a restaurant over. It is. Not simply because you expect the businesses that you frequent to support equality both upstream and downstream from your purchase, but also because, dear god, this act of revolution is so exceedingly easy.
Want to know just how easy it is? Ask the San Antonio City Council. They bounced Chick-fil-A right out of their new airport plans literally one day after the news of Chick-fil-A’s donations broke. It’s that simple.
Here’s what Councilman Roberto Treviño said about the move:
“With this decision, the City Council reaffirmed the work our city has done to become a champion of equality and inclusion. San Antonio is a city full of compassion, and we do not have room in our public facilities for a business with a legacy of anti-LGBTQ behavior. Everyone has a place here, and everyone should feel welcome when they walk through our airport.”
To which the proper response is “duh.” Of course, that’s the right answer, the only answer for anyone who values equality. But where will San Antonio ever find another business eager to get the built-in traffic of an airport that makes the rare alchemical delight that is the fried chicken sandwich? We hope they choose Fattboy Burgers — where the fried chicken is truly enormous and will make everyone on your flight jealous — but the options abound.
“They have every right to donate to whoever they want!” the contrarians say.
Absolutely they do. That’s the very nature of free enterprise and capitalism (Chick-fil-A’s stance is well established). And I have a right to mock them for it. And you have a right to decide whether or not to eat there. Then everyone gets to ask themselves if the choices they are making help bring about a better world, a worse world, or a neutral world. We get to ask if buying our chicken sandwiches from a place that made a donation to the Paul Anderson Youth Home — where they believe that same-sex marriage is “rage against Jesus Christ and His values” — is worth it.
But here’s a spoiler: It’s definitely not. Both because every single argument against equality for people of all sexual orientations is thinner than the milkshakes at your local Chick-fil-A (compare them to the Frostys at Wendy’s), and because fried chicken is not something you need to compromise your beliefs over. The San Antonio City Council gets that. The Pittsburgh City Council gets it too. It’s time for an option-rich, increasingly well-educated food-loving public to fall in line.
“I don’t like their politics, but damn do they make a good fried chicken sandwich,” used to sound so reasonable. In 2019 — knowing how powerful boycotts and social movements are in creating change — it just sounds absurd.