When I first noticed Buffalo Wings on menus I had already been living in Brazil for a couple of years and knew that it was probable someone had managed to make buffalos sprout wings as science was doing such an amazing variety of things in those days. Astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Collins had landed on the moon and walked around on it for a couple of hours in 1969. Dolly, that loveable female sheep, had been cloned by Scottish scientists and was living happily ever after. Why wouldn’t somebody add wings to buffalos? They were such delicious *comfort food.
I cannot answer the question as to why no one ever cloned wings to buffalos, and I confess that it was a disappointment when I learned the Buffalo from the wings was about the city in upper New York State and not the mammals.
There are conflicting stories about the invention of Buffalo wings, although everybody agrees that they are actually chicken wings. And everybody also agrees they were invented in the city of Buffalo, in upstate New York, that city that is less than an hour away from Niagara Falls.
The most likely story is about Teressa and Frank Bellissimo, part of the Italian-American community, who owned the Anchor Bar in Buffalo. The story goes that their son Dominic arrived there late one night with some of his college friends. It was a Friday night in 1964 and the boys were hungry, but at that time Roman Catholics didn’t eat meat on Fridays. And Italian-Americans were Catholics. But Dominic’s mom came to the rescue, using a lot of chicken wings that they had on hand from a mis-delivery.
Teressa split the wings open and then deep-fried them. After frying, she coated them with a vinegar-based cayenne hot sauce and melted butter. The wings were served to the boys right after midnight when the Catholics could eat meat again. They were a hit from that very first night. As a matter of fact, young Dominic said his friends “went ape.” Buffalo wings are usually served hot, and along with celery sticks or carrot sticks and either blue cheese or ranch dressing for dipping, just as Dominic’s mother did that first night.
Buffalo wings became so popular that restaurant franchises like Domino’s, Hooters and McDonald’s began to make their own versions and they began to be served across the country. July 29th was soon declared Chicken Wing Day and chicken wings, which were used only to make stock in most homes and restaurants, suddenly went up in price and sales. There have even been chicken wing shortages! But the shortages were never severe enough to encourage scientists to breed buffalo to produce wings. Because of the demand for chicken wings and the increased price this caused, somebody invented and marketed Wyngz, which is made from chicken meat, but not the wing meat, and is prepared the same as buffalo wings, but have without the bones. Although not the real thing, it is neater to eat buffalo wings without the bones.
So now we know that buffalo wings are simply named for a city. And as for the bar and restaurant? It became a franchise, of course. And they ship buffalo wings all over the United States, or 5 variations of their spicy sauce.
All three Bellissimos are gone now, but before Frank and Teressa retired they hired an Italian immigrant to help out. He barely spoke English but it turned out that he had an entrepreneurial spirit and not only did he learn English, he became the chef and was the one who put the restaurant on the map.
Dominic, the Bellissimo’s only child, died at 68, but left 2 daughters, Donna and Teressa (who likes to be called Terry), as well as his wife Edith. Dominic’s widow took over the restaurant after his death. The restaurant is still thriving but I could not find out if it is still a family-owned business.
I was born near the end of WWII and raised in a small town in New Jersey, just a little more than a 30-minute drive from NYC. It was a wonderful place to be brought up, feeding ducks and canoeing on the river that meandered through the town in the summer, and ice-skating on that same river in the winter.
My two brothers and I were privileged to be raised in a lovely town that was safe to explore on foot, but close enough to NYC to be taken there on day trips to see the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Baily B & B circus, museums, Chinatown, street fairs in the spring and Broadway shows as we grew older. But we thought nothing of it.
Later as teens, we would go into NYC to buy a couple of beers (the drinking age in New York State was 18, and 21 in New Jersey) and hang out in Greenwich Village where we saw singers such as Bob Dylan who were on the first rung of the ladder on their way to fame.
The sixties were a time of speaking out and creating change. I decided to do my part by joining the Peace Corps, an innovative cold war program established by John F. Kennedy in 1961. I arrived in Brazil at the end of 1966, and after an adaptation period, was sent to serve in Porto Nacional, in what was Goias at that time. I can’t say I changed the course of the country, especially as I was immediately called upon to teach English in the local high school.
I have been teaching ever since; high schools, college literature, college language pedagogy, financial English and everything in-between. I married a wonderful Brazilian from Rio and we had 3 boys and moved around some, as he was an engineer who worked on hydro dams. Nowadays I am a widow and live in BH with 3 cats, one of which has extraordinary powers, and I have 4 wonderful and uniquely different grandchildren nearby. Thus far, I have had an interesting life, and this new endeavor called a blog should make it even more interesting.