the perfect wings

Mike and I went to the Olde Towne Tavern tonight for wings.  Not because they are always good, but because when they are…they’re perfect!  It had been a while since we’d been back.  After having three bad wing experiences in a row, Mike vowed to never set foot in the place again.  But, as the saying goes, time heals all wounds…even bad wings. 

I had craved the Olde Towne wings all day.  I was supposed to have lunch there with a friend today, but circumstances as they were, we had to cancel.  My craving did not subside when lunch was taken off the table, so I pleaded with my husband to give them another chance.  To let bygones be bygones as it were, and give it another go. 

He begrudgingly relented. 

The place was fairly busy for a Wednesday night, but not so packed that we couldn’t get a table straight away.  The menus sat in front of us for more than a few minutes, but I didn’t bother to open mine.  I knew what I wanted as if I had memorized the page.  I suppose I had.  I had eaten wings there many times before.

After trial and error over the course of more visits than I can calculate in my head, and after more “not so perfect wings” than I have mentally catalogued, I was prepared to order my usual wings…just the way I like them…even if that’s not the way they normally come prepared.

Mike absolutely hates when I make any changes to the standard menu, essentially blaming me for any substandard results due to my own exasperating criteria.  I don’t know what he’s talking about…it’s just a little tweaking of the house specialty, and if they tweak them just right they are amazing.  So despite the faces he was making, rolling his eyes and shaking his head at me, I ordered my usual—ten medium wings, extra crispy, with light sauce… “Just enough for flavor, but not enough to get under my fingernails.”

I hadn’t felt especially good most of the day—I woke up with the headache from hell and it hadn’t gone away by seven in the evening—so despite my new moratorium on diet Coke, I ordered one of those too. 

I had sucked down two by the time my wings were ready.

I saw the waitress coming from across the room, and even in the dim light of the pub, I could tell that these would be good wings. 

Like I told the waitress…I don’t like my wings to drip.  The sauce should be baked in, not splashed on.  And I could see from across the room that there was no glistening as the light caught the rust-colored wings.  No reflection…no gloss that said, “Way too much sauce.”  The finish was smooth, not sticky…dry, not dripping.  Just the way I like them.

The sauce to wing ratio was absolute perfection. 

She set the basket down in front of me, and I smiled.  Even without taking a single bite, I knew these were perfect wings.  It’s just something you can tell by looking. 

The only measure left was the crispiness.  The window of perfection there is a narrow one.  Cook them too long and they are too crispy, not long enough and they are underdone.  It only took one bite to know what I had suspected all along. 

These wings were perfect.  

All the times that I had ordered wings that failed to measure up were suddenly washed away by the pure flawlessness of the wings in front of me.  Even the sauce had outdone itself.  It was not too spicy, not too mild.  The blending of hot and tangy was a veritable symphony played out for my taste buds.

There was nothing lacking, or missing, or wrong with these wings.  I ate them slowly, savoring each bite, pausing in between to delight in the lingering burn of the delectable spices. 

I quietly sipped at my third (and forth) diet Coke as I slowly made my way through the basket of unmatched chicken wings. I was lost in the flavors and textures of my meal, barely noticing my husband as he ate across from me, eyeing my wings with something akin to lust. 

He was not brave enough to order the wings tonight.  He played it safe, ordering…well, I don’t know what he ordered.  I was too wrapped up in my ten wonderful wings to notice. 

I did save the last wing for him. 

Not because I couldn’t have eaten it—I could have, easily—but because I love him, and I could tell from his face that he wanted nothing more than to taste one of the most exquisite wings in existence.  After all…we may never get this lucky again.  It was like winning the lottery.  The wing jackpot.  And the thing is…you just can’t take it with you.  It’s not the same the next day.  It’s not the same warmed in the microwave.  You have to eat them while they’re hot, and savor them to the fullest. 

Life is a lot like that. 

You have to find the little things that make you happy and just grab on to them.  Some days your wings will be awful, and other days they will be beyond compare.  You never know what wonderful things are in store for you…you just have to keep going from one day to the next, giving life one more chance.  Letting bygones be bygones and moving forward.  After all…if I hadn’t given Olde Towne one more chance, I would have missed out on some damn fine wings!

Until the next time…I’ll be chewing a few Tums before bed to get rid of the diet Coke and hot sauce heartburn!

Copyright © 2000-2018, Erica Lucke Dean. All rights reserved. Any retranscription or reproduction is prohibited and illegal.
Posted on August 26, 2010 .