Rudyard Kipling maintained a sense of straightforward, unadorned realism about things. His strongest writings--"east is east and west is west"--eschew ambiguity in favor of a world simplified.
Rudyard Kipling never once said that anything tasted like chicken.
Nowadays, of course, everything indescribable and new tastes somewhat like mass-produced poultry product, whether fried, baked, or infused with fresh fennel. We live in a time of great diversification and confusion. Dallas grocery shoppers grab everything from Vienna sausages to canned sprotai (a sardine-like fish). Restaurants offer garlic mashed potatoes, smashed potatoes, mashed potatoes with cheese, and dozens of other varieties. Ethnic restaurants make up the fastest-growing segment of the food-service industry. Still, Americans eat an average of 81 pounds of chicken per year, at least according to the National Chicken Council. It's as if we yearn for simpler times, for reminders of the way things used to be. In a turbulent world, chicken remains the constant, the familiar. It's no wonder we set chicken as the basis for comparison.
So how many things taste like chicken?
As far as we can tell, reptiles, birds, testicles, rodents, some fish, and certain vegetarian dishes all taste vaguely like chicken. According to numerous sources, both rattlesnake and alligator typically earn comparisons to the barnyard animal. Some people place iguana in this class too. Texans claim that armadillo meat reminds them of chicken--except that armadillos carry leprosy. Among birds, rock Cornish game hen tastes like chicken. Pigeon and piping plover could be substituted for the more traditional fowl as well.
Turkey testicles taste either like chicken or calamari, depending on whom you ask--bars in Chicago hold a turkey testicle fest every year if you want to find out for yourself. Former Okie Brandy Bray claims that pig testicles taste like chicken when fried to a crisp. Avoid the softer ones, she warns.
Other things that taste like chicken include frog legs, rats (according to unconfirmed rumor), Southern puffer (just don't eat the poisonous liver), and VEAT (a soy product made to resemble meat).
Not satisfied with gonads, rodents, or soy product? Scientists involved in tissue engineering projects may soon develop artificial chicken cultures--techno foods that will allow consumers to grow meat from tissues at home.
Perhaps we should just kick back with a volume of Kipling and order pizza.
Get the Dining Newsletter
The week's top local food news and events, plus interviews with chefs and restaurant owners, dining tips, and a peek at our print review.