A now-viral image of five chicken wings—each in a different state of completion—has lit the internet on fire, sparking arguments, ending friendships, and even getting niggas disinvited to gender-reveal clambakes. In the image, each wing is listed from 1 to 5, representing the spectrum from “barely-nibbled” to “did you just eat the bone too?” And, of course, value judgments have been made on where a person places on the spectrum. Basically, if you’re consistently a 3 or below, you’re possibly a fed, probably a Kappa, and you definitely put socks on to have sex. Because, like a person’s feelings about tipping and/or boot-cut jeans, how you eat your wings is a reliable character tell. If you can’t even finish a wing, can you be trusted to change a diaper? (Probably not!)
But, as a (self-proclaimed) wing maven, (self-awarded) grand supreme arbiter of wing culture, and (self-deluded) wing zeitgeist archivist, I have to say it’s not that simple.
So, here’s an underrated thing about wings that’s essential to their, um, essence: they’re not pizza. Although I believe there’s much more distinction between good and bad pizza than we tend to believe, the fact remains that the vast majority of pizzas are, at the very least, edible. Great pizza is, well, great. Bad pizza is you thinking “Yeah, I’ll finish this slice, but I don’t have to order from this place ever again.” Wings have much more variance in quality. We know what great wings can do. If someone told me that a batch of perfectly cooked and appropriately seasoned garlic parm grew sentient and learned how to pilot a helicopter, I’d believe them, because great wings can do everything. A bad batch of wings, however, makes it feel like you’re eating an infection. Each bite feels like a spray of salmonella on your tongue.
Unfortunately, most places that serve wings—chains in particular—don’t give many shits about this evil, and sell wings that aren’t really meant to be eaten. Consumed? Yes. But not eaten. Not savored. Not made love to. There are a few reasons for this, but the main one (I think) is that wings have been branded as party food, and restaurants believe that people who eat party food are mainly just looking for something to coat their stomachs. And, well, they’re not completely wrong. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had legitimately terrible wings recommended to me, which just proves that some of y’all ain’t discerning about the chicken you put in your mouths.
This considered, when I encounter a half-eaten batch of wings, knowing how ubiquitous bad wings are—and knowing how life-changing a great wing can be—I assume less about the wing eater and more about the wing itself. So if we want more people on the right side of the spectrum, we need to ensure that every man, woman, and child has ready access to quality wings. Because, well, some wings don’t deserve to be finished. Some wings deserve a weak nibble. Some wings deserve to die.