Chicken Parmesan carved out a place on Italian restaurant menus around the middle of the last century. The thing is, it’s not from Parma and by all evidence it likely originated outside the Italian borders. Most recipes call for mozzarella and/or provolone with a slight few tossing in Parmesan as a finisher. Shenanigans! It’s half-truths and misappropriation nestled in a lightly salted bed of al dente angel hair.
There are people with what sounds like a marvelously fun job if you’re into musty old books and getting shushed by librarians because you’re cursing at the disorder neglect has imposed on the obscure corner of the research wing you inhabit regularly fun. They scour old cookbooks and menus, literature, and diaries looking for the first mention of a particular dish. Imagine these food historians as a better fed version of Oxford English Dictionary etymologists.
Those slightly overweight sneezy people have pinned the first appearance of Chicken Parmesan in Italy as being somewhere in the mid-1950s. That’s two or three years after it popped up roughly simultaneously in the US, Argentina, and Australia – the three top destinations of the 23 million people fleeing miserable poverty beginning after the end of WWI and ending around the mid-1950s. It’s what’s know as the Italian diaspora.Continue reading