The Politics of Eating a Chicken Nugget

After a long time away, I am back

“Damn, I hope no one sees me eating this Christian fried chicken.”

I take a bite. “They’ll start yelling a think piece at me because they think I should know better and have 800 to 1,200 words to prove it.”

Yes, I considered the ramifications. What if I were recognized? Not because I am famous or anything. Or famous-adjacent. Or even the distant kinfolk of famous-adjacent. I write books in a country that elected a reality-star president (thank you for everyone who purchased my book, though).

What I mean is that although I am now a 35-year-old man, I’m still very much the child who was bopping to some song playing out of his headphones, or if all else fails, a song playing in my head. That means when I was dipping my chicken nugget in that glorious and less sugary-sweet creamy sriracha sauce, Megan Thee Stallion’s “Big Ole Freak” might’ve been blaring out of my AirPods and my body roll gave my gay ass away.

So yeah, I (probably stupidly) slightly worried that someone would suddenly surface and say to me, “How dare you dip that ‘bigoted’ fried chicken in that sauce when sodomy has done so much for you.” But I was already there, so I finally told myself, “fuck it” and took the last sip of my Arnold Palmer — diabetes swirling in that cup. The best part is that it tasted as good as I wanted it to be. As I needed it to be after I spent so much time away from Chick-fil-A and their intolerant but delicious food.

Yo, those chicken nuggets, that looked like actual chicken, tasted so, so good. And they were fried in peanut oil, which I have told myself makes this less offensive to indulge in.

Those waffle fries, which one of my closest friends swears “ain’t all that,” were so fresh and perfectly salted — reminding me again what a damn liar my friend is. However, I came for the nuggets. Some people treat themselves with cookies, cakes, pies, or Crown Royal Apple. I like to treat myself with chicken nuggets. I love-love-love a chicken nugget. Everyone has their thing, and chicken nuggets have always been mine.

A friend of mine has been mocking me since my 20s for having the palate of a child who missed Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign. For the record, I now enjoy raw oysters, thank you very much, and, additionally, I have tried cricket tacos (it tastes exactly like a damn bug and you know you have to be on some wild shit when you gross out the white person you came with), and have eaten a bunch of stuff best labeled “rich people food” because I couldn’t possibly describe that shit to you in this economy.

My palate is not limited. A chicken nugget just cools a man off. Of all the nuggets out there, I find Chick-fil-A’s the fairest of them all.

Yet, it had been a long, long time since I stepped inside one of their restaurants in protest of recent headlines. I had been here before with Chick-fil-A. Back in 2012, when reports of them donating to anti-LGBTQ charities first surfaced, I stopped going. I was so strong then. There was a Chick-fil-A right across the street from my gym and I would just drive right on by it. It was easier then because I was in Houston, which has a Pappadeaux. Have you ever been to Pappadeaux? It is the happiest place on Earth to me — and probably Beyoncé, even after all these years. They serve fried crawfish and fried alligator tails and have amazing bread, so I can drive by the Christians and go two minutes up for a worthy replacement.

But I don’t live near a Pappadeaux now.

I missed my damn nuggets.

Some of you reading this might be wondering why don’t I just go somewhere else for nuggets. This is based on the premise that all chicken nuggets are created equal.

I beg to differ.

McDonald’s: Their fries are legendary, but those nuggets haven’t hit since the compact disc was still a thing. Maybe Napster, if we’re being generous. I would now like a hash brown if it helps.

Burger King: Like McDonald’s, their nuggets were so good in 1999, but now they give away 99 nuggets for 99 cents and I can’t trust it.

Jack in the Box: I go here for the Breakfast Jack at 3:00 a.m., maybe a chicken pita and curly fries. Nothing else.

Shake Shack: So, these are OK, but you don’t turn to the forgettable for comforting.

Wendy’s: Their chicken nuggets are phenomenal, and the spicy nuggets somehow manage to be better. However, the problem with Wendy’s is arguably worse than the issue some of us queer folk have with Chick-fil-A and their donations, with 90 percent of Wendy’s donations to federal candidates steered toward Republicans. I have tried to navigate the challenge of not wanting to help companies whose policies I disagree with. It varies case by case, and I have no real formula. It’s more of a feeling.

My feelings about Chick-fil-A have always been complicated.

As I have discussed with so many of my gay Black male friends, I have never gone to a Chick-fil-A and not spotted some gay Black boy working there. So many times I have heard, “My pleasure!” from some energetic queer Black teen and I have always cackled at the irony.

And I have one longtime friend who is queer and a parent with a child now working at Chick-fil-A. Last fall, over FaceTime, I noted the Chick-fil-A on her dinner table with a grin on my face. She thought I was going to judge her. I said while I have personally decided to stay away from them, I’m not judging folks who opted otherwise — especially other queer folks like her. I worried a lot about judgment, which is why the few times I did step inside a Chick-fil-A, I promptly stepped back out.

Each time was a particularly stressful situation and I wanted a treat to spruce my mood. Each time I left because it didn’t feel worth it. Even after the company announced in November 2019 that it would stop donating to two anti-LGBTQ organizations — a pass — I didn’t go.

And then finally I went in 2020 and had myself a treat.

Do you want to know how good it tasted to me? This meal that I hadn’t enjoyed in so long had me randomly singing Seal’s “Kiss From a Rose.” And no, I wasn’t high.

Yet there I was, swaying like I was stupid to this sucky song as I slathered more of that sauce onto my nuggets and fries, grinning at how good it tasted.

Granted, some folks will remain upset with me, but I’ll get by with waffle fries or their delightful kale side salad on lighter days. That reminds me: If you don’t want the fried nugget ’cause summer is coming, get the grilled nuggets and dip them in buffalo sauce. You’re welcome.

Besides, I am Black and gay and not rich yet, so everyone hates me.

I have hated this entire ordeal. All I want every so often is an order of chicken nuggets to help me chill out. Do you know how exhausting it is to consider the politics of a chicken nugget?

Chick-fil-A, if you want to do God’s work, don’t ever do anything again that turns my calories into something that recalls a cable news fight — or there will be hell to pay.

Author of “I Can’t Date Jesus” and “I Don’t Want To Die Poor.” Houstonian.

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