De Met's Turtles (1940); "Chicken a la king" revisited

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Thu Jun 17 04:20:23 UTC 2004


   It's earliest in the Chicago Tribune.  I don't know if DARE is interested
in "turtle."  See the "turtle candy" discussion in the ADS-L archives.

    Display Ad 5 -- No Title
Chicago Daily Tribune (1872-1963). Chicago, Ill.: Apr 19, 1940. p. 5 (1 page)
_Have You Tasted_
_Just One of the 90 Taste-Thrills in This_
_Famous De Met's Week-End Special_
De Met's delicious Pecan Turtles!  Here is a candy treat that words simply
can't describe!  On top are a vveritable feast of fresh, whole Louisiana Pecans.
 Inside is rich, full cream caramel that's half-dipped in the finest
chocolate and topped with chocolate rice.  You'll find Pecan Turtles in our 90-piece
assorted week-end special now being featured at all De Met's stores.
   De Met's
312 Madison St. Chicago
22 Stores in Chicago--12 Handy Loop Stores


   I discussed "chicken a la king" here a long time ago.  The "William King,
of Philadelphia" item was re-printed in COMMENTS ON ETYMOLOGY.  There's no
reason for the OXFORD ENCYCLOPEDIA OF AMERICAN FOOD AND DRINK to get this wrong,
but one never knows.
   The usual city for "chicken a la king" myths is New York, but here's one
for Chicago.  Below this, see the 1915 ProQuest Chicago Tribune citation that
gets it right.

   June 1957, THE EPICUREAN MONTHLY, pg. 23, col. 2:
A little information about popular dishes has been sent by ALFRED FRIES,
President of the International Association of Cooks of Chicago.

   Contrary to its royal title, _CHICKEN A LA KING_, is a typical
American-style dish which originated in Chicago.  Its place of birth and circumstances of
its preparation were related to me by an old timer of our culinary profession
in 1907, at the time of my arrival in this great middle west metropolis.
   Chicken a la King was nothing new to me even then, because it featured on
the menus of all the three houses where I worked--the Manhattan Hotel on 42nd
St. and Madison Ave., The Breslin on 28th and Broadway, and my last job in New
York City, the Netherland Hotel, located at 59th St. and Fifth Ave.
   Wells St. in Chicago, the fourth block west of famous State St. and
running parallel with it, was also known as Fifth Ave., and north of the Chicago
river it was dubbed unofficially "Swiss Boulevard."  At the time of my arrival in
1907 the downtown section of Wells St. housed some big printing plants which
operated day and night.
   A popular restaurant on Wells, known as King's place, was run by the King
Family.  They served food until late at night in order to accommodate the
night-shift printers.  One cold night, during the end of the nineteenth century,
some sixty years ago, business had been good and all warm dishes had been sold
out.  Just before closing time a group of newspaper workers came in and
clamoured for hot food.  Mrs. King, or was it one of the daughters, rushed into the
kitchen, but the last cook had gone home and all she could find was some cold,
boiled chickens and a pot of cream sauce standing on the side to cool off.
   (So she invented Cobb Salad?  Buffalo wings?--ed.)
   Without hesitating the lady quickly cut the breasts in medium sized
chunks, reheated the cream sauce and dumped the chicken meat into it.  Toast was
made quickly on the gas broiler and one-two-three, a steaming hot pot of chicken
in cream sauce with fresh, warm toast was served to the hungry members of the
fourth estate.
   On the following days and nights the same and other guests asked for the
new dish--chicken in cream sauce again, and so it became a regular feature on
the simple menu, containing mostly inexpensive dishes.
   Like everything else in the world this dish underwent an evolution; other
restaurateurs imitated it and for want of a name it was termed Chicken a la
King.  Some improvements, or should we say alterations occurred; sliced fresh
mushrooms, then sliced green and red peppers were added by some progressive
culinary artist.  Finally Chicken a la King joined high society by making its
appearance on the menus of exclusive dining places in ritzy hotels.  Of course
here this originally plain dish underwent a metamorphosis under the direction of
chef members of the cuisine classique. (...)

   Washington Post  Sunday, March 14, 1915 Washington, District Of Columbia

...Ledger. J The inventor of CHICKEN A lA KING is deAd. If MAcAdAm
is.....Robert Peel by the And why should not WILLIAM KING, of PhilAdelphiA, go down..

(PROQUEST HISTORICAL NEWSPAPERS) "("William King" and "chicken a la
king"--only these two early hits)
[Philadelphia Ledger.]. The Washington Post (1877-1954). Washington, D.C.:
Mar 14, 1915. p. M4 (1 page)

    2.  THE TRIBUNE COOK BOOK; Chicken a la King.
JANE EDDINGTON. Chicago Daily Tribune (1872-1963). Chicago, Ill.: Jul 7,
1915. p. 14 (1 page) :
   PHILADELPHIA as an adjective is to be found in front of a good many of the
titles to recipes besides ice cream and scrapple, and there are others who
should wear it in order to explain their true origin.
   There is more than one story afloat about the origin of the true
Philadelphia dish, chicken a la king, but I believe I have the authentic since two
widely different authorities have confirmed one the other.  In the June number of
an English cookery journal is the following paragraph:
   "The death of Mr. William King, a well known chef in Philadelphia, is much
regretted in the states, for he was the originator of the dish "chicken a la
king"--the story being that he prepared a dish twenty years ago to please a
customer, who was delighted with it that he gave it the title which has become
known throughout the U. S. A."
   The son of this customer has told me how his father, an epicure, was
accustomed to going into the best known of the hotels in Philadelphia, the one
which has had a national reputation for a quarter of a centruy now, for a meal,
and how his arrival when reported in the kitchen put the cooks on their mettle,
with the result that one day this famous dish was prepared and the great man
said: "Let it be called after the cook, chicken a la king!" (...)

(I had first found the William King credit in the NEW YORK TRIBUNE.  Now it's
here in 1915 in the CHICAGO TRIBUNE, and in the PHILADELPHIA
LEDGER/WASHINGTON POST as well.  That's a good roundup of early agreement...The Chicago story
above reads well, but the TRIBUNE COOK BOOK plainly declares it a
_Philadelphia_ dish--ed.)

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