Marcia Chatelain and the McUniverse
An extremely meaningful conversation with the Pulitzer Prize winner
“I understand the political idea [behind banning fast food] — like, let's keep this type of food out of our community — but, I would say, why don't we think about wages and healthcare and free college and free childcare before we start making the solution about access to certain types of foods, and really start to focus on quality of life, that makes fast food one of many choices that people have.”
I’m really proud and happy to introduce Dr. Marcia Chatelain, my guest on this week’s episode of Food with Mark Bittman. Dr. Chatelain is an historian and a professor at Georgetown, where she teaches history and African American studies. Her astonishing book, Franchise: The Golden Arches in Black America was published in early 2020; it caused me and many other people to completely rethink what we thought we knew about the relationship between McDonald’s and the Black community — and it won a Pulitzer. Franchise has just been published in paperback with a brilliant new preface: It’s worth reading the book a second time for the preface alone.
My interview with Dr. Chatelain is as interesting a conversation as I’ve had, on and off the podcast, all year. Somewhere in the middle of it, I was so moved by what she was saying that I had to stop and tell her. I’m completely in awe of Dr. Chatelain and her work, and I’m betting that after listening to this, you will be, too.
The recipes featured in the episode are below. Please listen, subscribe, and review! And remember to call us on 833-FOODPOD (833-366-3763) with all your food-related questions.
Thank you, as always. — Mark
Serves 4 to 6
Time: 20 minutes
Dr. Chatelain told me she makes the original How to Cook Everything pancakes recipe often, so I thought I’d share it here. You’ll be able to memorize this one, and I often cut it in half for a quick weekday morning breakfast.
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar (optional)
1½ to 2 cups milk
2 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled (optional)
Butter or good-quality vegetable oil for cooking
1. Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar if you’re using it, in a large bowl. In a smaller bowl, beat the eggs with 1½ cups milk, then stir in the melted butter if you’re using it. Gently stir this into the dry ingredients, mixing only enough to moisten the flour; don’t worry about a few lumps. If the batter seems thick, add a little more milk.
2. When you’re ready to cook, heat a griddle or large skillet over medium-low heat. Heat the oven to 200°F. Use a little butter or oil each time you add batter, unless your skillet is truly nonstick. When the butter foam subsides or the oil shimmers, ladle batter onto the griddle or skillet, making any size pancakes you like. Adjust the heat as necessary; usually, the first batch will require higher heat than subsequent batches. The idea is to brown the bottom in 2 to 4 minutes without burning it. The pancakes are ready to turn when bubbles appear in the center and the bottoms are golden brown; they won’t hold together well until that stage.
3. Cook until the second side is lightly browned, a couple of minutes more, and serve right away. Or hold on an ovenproof plate or baking sheet in the oven for up to 15 minutes.
Time: About 30 minutes
Since we’re talking about McDonald’s today, I thought I’d share my recipe for Chicken MarkNuggets. A dumb name, I realize, but hey — it was given to these a number of years ago, and it says what they are, right? These are a homemade version of Chicken McNuggets, and they’re pretty great. They do involve deep frying, so get ready for that — there’s no way around it!
1 ½ pounds boneless chicken (breasts, tenders, or thighs), blotted dry
1 cup all-purpose flour for dredging
2 cups bread crumbs or panko for dredging
Salt and pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
Good-quality vegetable oil for deep frying
1. Fit a rimmed baking sheet with a wire rack. Cut the chicken into 2-inch strips or pieces of about equal thickness. Put the flour, beaten eggs, and bread crumbs on separate plates or shallow bowls next to each other. Sprinkle the eggs with salt and pepper and the cayenne, and whisk with a fork to combine thoroughly.
2. Dredge the chicken a few pieces at a time in the flour, then dip in the eggs, then dredge in the bread crumbs. As you work, put the chicken on a baking sheet. When it’s all breaded, transfer to the refrigerator to chill for at least 10 minutes and up to 3 hours. (At this point, you can freeze the chicken on the baking sheet and then transfer the frozen pieces to zipper bags or wrap in plastic; they’ll keep for a month or 2.)
3. Heat the oven to 200°F. Put 2 to 3 inches oil in a large pot over medium-high heat; bring to 350°F. If you don’t have a thermometer, heat the oil until a cube of bread sinks a bit before rising to the top and bubbling merrily. Just make sure the oil isn’t too hot. When the oil is ready, turn the heat up a bit and add a few chicken pieces, regulating the heat so that there is a constant sizzle but no burning. Cook in batches as necessary, making sure not to crowd the pan.
4. Turn the chicken pieces as they brown. The total cooking time should be about 4 minutes. As pieces finish, transfer them to the wire rack to drain and keep warm in the oven. Serve as soon as all the pieces are cooked, with sauce for dipping.