My funny experience at the food court...
So the South never ceases to amaze me. Today I went to the mall food court for the first time. Regardless of the name of the vendor, everyone was serving the same dishes. Each was also calling out for me to sample their seasoned fried chicken on a toothpick. A place called "Le Bon" which had pictures of deli stuff, as well as a Panda(?) express and one or two other palces, including the cajun place, all had general tso's chicken or other seasoned fried chicken, fried rice, eggrolls, and lo mein.
The people with samples were literally hawking their stuff and i was given toothpick samples of eveything, as well as having the various competing prices shouted at me.
I know fried chicken's a thing down here, but still..
There was also a chik-fil-a that had its own menu of fried chicken sandwiches.
This reminds me Calvin Trillin's theory that there was an underground factory below Manhattan producing generic Chinese food that was then piped into every corner delivery place. Perhaps there is a giant vat of breaded fried chicken in sweet sticky sauce underneath the mall, and it is piped into each food court restaurant steam table and given a different label.
my local food court:
-a thai noodle eatery that has a 20-person lineup from noon to one
-A&W (burgers, fries)
-a greek souvlaki place, with chicken/pork/lamb/gyros, salad, rice, everything..
-a salad place, with many sandwiches/salads/soups. fresh-looking.
-sushi shop, for eat in or takeout
-a lebanese place.. the best shish taouk sandwich I've ever had.. also tabouleh, fattouche, falafel, garlic taters, the works.
-a "pita pit" type place
-a hotdog/french fry stand
-american-chinese (egg rolls, spare ribs..)
-Japanese teriyaki stir-fry place.
I'm spoiled rotten.
It's the fact that EVERY place offering samples is offering a tiny bite of chicken on a toothpick and that all of the different places are offering very similar things.
In my own experience it's not so much fried chicken as chicken in some kind of sweet sauce, and it's hardly a phenomenon exclusive to the South. Here in Boston the food-court Cajun place will be offering samples of "bourbon chicken," the Japanese place has chicken teriyaki, and the Chinese place has "orange flavor chicken." You begin to feel as though some of the franchises have invented a chicken-in-sweet-sauce offering just to compete, even if there's no normal equivalent in their cuisine.