I was cooking dinner with my mom, when she laughed and said to me, “The last part that went over the fence—my dad used to say that!”
We were listening to “Chicken Shack Boogie” an Amos Milburn song from 1949 as I blanched carrots, per Barbara Lynch’s instructions, in preparation for a ginger glaze. Milburn was a seminal rock and roller, perhaps better known for the boozy romp, “One Scotch, One Bourbon, One Beer.” I’ve always had a soft spot for songs about food, though, and “Chicken Shack Boogie” was part of a playlist I had put together to listen to while cooking:
All good portions of chicken once more is a cinch
You can even get the last part that went over the fence
My grandfather maintained a lifelong baseline of wit and humor and I could picture him using the colloquialism. But exactly which part of a flying chicken would last cross the picket of, let’s say, an eight-foot high wooden stockade fence is something I’ve spent an unflattering amount of time considering. And yet, never looking up. Until now.
The parson’s nose, the north end of a chicken flying south, or the part that that goes over the fence last is—essentially and obviously—the chicken butt. Or rather the spade-shaped flap of muscle, fat, and skin that holds all the feathers for the tail, located over the vent.
Vent ? Let’s move on.
The technical name is pygostyle, which sounds Greek to me. So, this morning, I texted my friend Emil, a classicist who teaches Greek and Latin at a Boston high school. He told me the word comes from the Greek πυγή, meaning rump, and στυλος, meaning pillar. Rump Pillar.
Everybody good with just calling it RP ? Great.
The RP is a polarizing part of the chicken. Some people are put off by the texture and taste. Others, such as Milburn, my grandfather, and me, are big fans.
“I like to take off the backbone and eat one of the oysters, the two succulent morsels of meat embedded here, and give the other to the person I’m cooking with,” writes chef and restauranteur Thomas Keller in his cookbook, Bouchon. “But I take the chicken butt for myself. I could never understand why my brothers always fought over that triangular tip—until one day I got the crispy, juicy fat myself. These are the cook’s rewards.”
Right from the oven, while the rest of the bird cools, is how I take my RP. I’ll bet that’s how my grandfather liked it, too. Where do you stand? Send us a message and let us know! We love to hear from our members.