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Food by VICE

WTF Is 'Engagement Chicken,' and Did It Actually Make Prince Harry Propose?

An extremely brief investigation.

by Mayukh Sen
Nov 28 2017, 8:45pm

In case you somehow missed it (which, if you did, congratulations! That's an achievement), Prince Harry and actress Meghan Markle announced their engagement yesterday. The news has spawned a rather bizarre hypothesis that's gained increased traction over the past day: that their engagement is, in fact, the result of what's known as 'Engagement Chicken.'

The couple sat down with the BBC’s Mishal Hussain on Monday shortly after the news went public to provide some clarity on the theretofore obscure details of their engagement. "Just a cozy night,” Markle explained. “We were trying to roast a chicken.” Midway through the culinary endeavor, the prince dropped to his knee and popped the question.

Heartwarming!

The admission has now resulted in a flurry of people wondering if he’d been wooed by what’s known as Engagement Chicken.




For the uninitiated, a primer: Engagement Chicken is a simple chicken recipe with an ever-extending mythology. It’s a delicious-sounding but uncomplicated thing—a roasted bird seasoned with lemon juice, sea salt, and pepper, and garnished with sprigs of rosemary, sage, and thyme, plus some flat-leaf parsley. The recipe had its genesis in the offices of Glamour Magazine in 1982, when editor Kimberly Bonnell charitably suggested her assistant, Kathy Suder, make it for her boyfriend. (Though neither Bonnell nor Suder could not be reached for comment, Bonnell, in a 2008 Huffington Post article, explained that it’s simply a riff on a Marcella Hazan lemon roast chicken recipe she liked.)

After Suder made the chicken for her boyfriend, he proposed that very night. Word of the recipe's purported magical qualities then spread like a virus across the office: Three more employees made it for their boyfriends, all of whom dropped to their knees and asked their hands in marriage shortly after the meal. Thus, the recipe became known as Engagement Chicken.

The recipe was eventually published in the pages of Glamour in 2004, when Bonnell joined the magazine once again as a Contributing Editor, and it was later immortalized in 2011’s 100 Recipes Every Woman Should Know: Engagement Chicken and 99 Other Fabulous Dishes to Get You Everything You Want in Life, a compendium with such recipes as “Complexion Soup,” “No Guy Required Grilled Steak,” “Instant Seduction Pork Chops,” and “Bikini Season Baked Salmon.” As the subtitle indicates, though, the book is really a love letter to Engagement Chicken disguised as a cookbook; there’s a whole chapter devoted to the “success stories” of couples who tied the knot after enjoying the recipe together.

READ MORE: How to Get the Crispiest-Skinned Roast Chicken

Among those who exchanged vows after consuming this juicy fowl were Howard Stern and his now-wife Beth Ostrosky, while Ina Garten, who's got an Engagement Chicken recipe of her own, has credited the dish with many a marriage. The belief that Engagement Chicken is responsible for Prince Harry and Markle's wedding has blossomed into something of a conspiracy in the past day, though I should note that these armchair theorists are working off the assumption that Markle had made the chicken for the Prince, when, in fact, that isn’t quite clear. She definitely said “we” when talking about how she and her husband-to-be were roasting (or "trying to roast") a chicken, so I’m afraid this theory doesn’t hold much water.

In any event, the lore surrounding the recipe itself is steeped in gender assumptions straight out of the 1600s: the woman who cooks, the man who eats. To borrow a turn of phrase from Jezebel, Engagement Chicken is “romantic culinary bullshit.”

Anyway, congratulations on the engagement.