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Brief so you can have more time to eat your chicken parm


      Chicken parm (short for chicken parmesan or chicken parmigiana) in its current form – tender, breaded chicken cutlets with melted cheese and tomato sauce – was actually created in America, though its origins are Italian.

      Not surprisingly, several regions of Italy take credit for inventing baked parmesan dishes. (Italians can’t seem to agree on anything.) The ancestor of chicken parm is melanzane alla parmigiana, or eggplant parm. Eggplant parm was known as a "la cucina povera” dish, which means "from the kitchen of the poor". It was based on eggplant, often grown in local gardens, combined with ingredients that even the poorest of families would have on hand. It was not breaded and fried, nor was it topped with a savory sauce. Rather, it was a meal baked in olive oil with thin slices of eggplant laid at the bottom of the dish. Most families could grow everything they needed to make eggplant parmigiana, including basil and tomatoes. It was a simple but filling dish for large families, with plenty of protein provided by the eggplant and cheese.


      The substitution of chicken for eggplant, as well as the crispy breading on the cutlet, was a change made in America. USA! USA! In the late 19th century through the early 20th century, known as the First Diaspora, a large wave of Italians arrived to the United States looking for work and higher wages. At the time, eggplant was more difficult to find in the U.S. (this was long, long before the age of Eataly and farmers markets). But working-class families were earning more, and so able to add chicken to their plates. That is the American dream right there.


      Soon enough, chicken parm was making its way onto restaurant menus. Its time had officially come in 1962 when it was featured as a recipe in the New York Times. America was hooked. Just like me.

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