The Untold Truth Of Buffalo Wings

What did we ever do without Buffalo wings? How could we watch a football game, or any major sporting event, without a plate of these by our side? How did we drink sufficient amounts of beer to keep Milwaukee famous? And whatever did we do with all of that blue cheese dressing? (Surely nobody ever ate that much salad.) Yes, it's hard to imagine a time when hot dogs, hamburgers, and chips were the only thing on our game day menus and when wings were just that tiny little pointy bit you got as a kind of lagniappe when you ordered white meat chicken.

Buffalo wings, in fact, may be THE quintessentially American dish, as they don't have any type of European roots. Instead of some apocryphal origin story that may or may not involve the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair (something The Christian Science Monitor says is the case with hamburgers, hot dogs, peanut butter, ice cream cones, and cotton candy), everyone knows the birthplace of Buffalo Wings: the legendary (and still standing) Anchor Bar in Buffalo, New York. And yes, the wings were named after the city, not the animal, since there's no amount of fairy dust (or Red Bull) sufficient to make a bison fly.

Buffalo wings may have been invented by accident

Okay, so we know where Buffalo wings were born, and as to when, the Anchor Bar's website says it was on a Friday night in 1964. The all-important why, though – well, Spoon University adds the detail that maybe (although after 57 years we don't know for sure) there may have been a mix-up in the supply chain, and the bar had received an order of chicken wings instead of the chicken necks that had been ordered. Presumably for soup stock, although wings would have worked just as well. Who knows? At any rate, whether the wings were originally intended for the soup pot or whether they were greeted with a "wtf is this?" by bar owner Teressa Bellissimo, what we do know is that she fried up a batch, doused them in sauce, and fed them to her son Dominic and his friends as a late-night snack. They loved them, so the wings went straight on the bar's menu and soon began attracting fans.

While Teressa's original sauce recipe was meant to be a secret, it's widely assumed to have contained just two ingredients: butter and Frank's RedHot Sauce. Oh, and to settle the question for once and all, Buffalo wings were meant to be served with blue cheese, NOT ranch dressing! As per the Anchor Bar menu, "All of our World Famous Wings are served with traditional celery and bleu cheese just like Mother Teressa served on that famous night in 1964!"

The Buffalo Bills made wings popular

While many credit the chain Buffalo Wild Wings for popularizing the Buffalo wing, and there's no doubt that they helped to spread the wing love far and wide, there's another organization that also did their bit to boost their hometown's greatest contribution to culinary history: the Buffalo Bills. As older millennials and up will perhaps recall, back in the early '90s it seemed like the Bills were always in the Super Bowl, though sadly not once did they win. 

Still, each year when they made it to the big game, not only the team but the town itself got a lot of media coverage. Just Fun Facts notes that local cuisine, particularly the Anchor Bar's tasty wings, were a highlight of every journalist's and TV crew's midwinter trip to the Frozen North, so naturally, the sings got talked up. A lot. After a few straight years of this, a food phenomenon was born!

Americans eat an insane amount of wings (not just during the Super Bowl)

Since it was a Super Bowl, or rather a string of them, that brought Buffalo wings to the nation's attention, it's only fitting that they've become the number-one party food for that special day. Last year the National Chicken Council predicted Americans would chow down on 1.4 billion wings (though perhaps not all Buffalo) for the big game, and then a month or so later March Madness may well usher in several more weeks of steady wing sales.

Real wing lovers, though, would keep on eating wings even if there was nothing on TV but PBS costume dramas. A 2017 poll reported by the New York Post came up with the brain-boggling statistic that the average non-vegetarian in the U.S. eats about 24 wings a month, which adds up to nearly 300 per year (24 x 12 is 288, in case you don't feel like pulling up your calculator app) and would consume almost 18,000 wings over the span of a lifetime. Oh, and the average size serving of wings, be they flats or drummettes, is 7, and we dine on wings at least 3 times per month. The real shocker from this survey, though, is that Buffalo sauce itself has been usurped as the #1 wing topping! It seems barbecue sauce is now the #1 wing sauce, though Buffalo sauce is still in the top 3.

There's no longer a Super Bowl of wing eating

While the Super Bowl may be when many of us set our personal best records for wing eating, there was once an actual Wing Bowl where competitive eaters went head to head to see who could pack away a truly phenomenal amount of these saucy little devils (Thrillist says mild, not hot Buffalo sauce was used). Wing Bowl was started in 1993 by two Philadelphia radio hosts so Philadelphians could have something to get excited over each February when the Eagles came to yet another ignominious season's end. In 2018, the Eagles ruined the fun by not only making it to the big game but winning it, and that was the end of Wing Bowl. (NBC Sports reports that the final champion was Molly Schuyler, who scarfed down an incredible 501 wings.)

One sports star, better known for his years in the squared circle, met his downfall at Wing Bowl in a 2015 scandal. According to CBS News, WWE Hardcore Legend Mick Foley was booted out of the contest for cheating. Evidently, he'd been caught stuffing uneaten Buffalo wings into a fanny pack, and his fans were shocked – shocked! – by the fact that Foley would wear a fanny pack. As for the cheating, that came as less of a surprise. After all, prior to the contest's kicking off, Foley himself had tweeted: "I will follow the wrestler's creed: win if I can, lose if I must, but always cheat!"

One remake of "It's a Wonderful Life" had Buffalo wings stand in for angel's wings

As everyone who's ever watched that Christmas classic It's a Wonderful Life knows, "every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings," but the angel first has to earn them. There have been about a zillion remakes and parodies of the Jimmy Stewart standard since it came out in 1946, but one stands out for its memorable interpretation of just what kind of wings an angel really wants.

In the iCarly episode entitled "iChristmas," Carly's bummed that the Christmas tree her brother Spencer builds catches on fire and burns up the presents. She wishes that she'd had a more normal sibling, and immediately an angel named Mitch shows up to grant that wish. She finally experiences life as a normie, but it doesn't live up to her expectations. At the end of the show, Carly's restored to her real life, but she hears once more from Mitch after a bell rings and he shows up on her computer screen to thank her. Carly asks "Why thank me? (via Forever Dreaming Transcripts) and Mitch replies: "Cause if it wasn't for you, I would never have gotten my wings." Cut to him chowing down on a big plate of Buffalo wings (via YouTube). Nice to know it's not all harps, halos, and angel food cake up there, even if you do have to do a good deed to earn those heavenly hot wings.