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Chicken wings at 50: A distinctly American dish, especially during Super Bowl

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The ultimate football food, chicken wings, turns 50 this year. (Source: Wikimedia Commons/stef yau) The ultimate football food, chicken wings, turns 50 this year. (Source: Wikimedia Commons/stef yau)

(RNN) - Fifty years ago, a happy accident in Buffalo, NY, led to the invention of the chicken wing, a distinctly American delicacy that has become one of the world's favorite foods. And this week marks Super Bowl Sunday, when the National Chicken Council estimates more than 1.2 billion wings will be consumed while a TV audience of about 110 million tune in to the game.

There are a number of stories about who was the first to invent the chicken wing as we now know them, but the most popular version is that they were first served at The Anchor Bar in Buffalo, NY.

The current owner of the Anchor Bar told food writer Calvin Trillin in the Aug. 25, 1980 edition of the New Yorker that his mother came up with the recipe when a case of wings was accidentally delivered instead of the chicken backs and necks she used to make her spaghetti sauce.

Dominic Bellissimo said he asked his mother Teressa to figure out something to do with them.

She broiled them (the Anchor Bar now deep fries their wings) and tossed them with a blend of vinegar, butter and Louisiana Pete's Hot Sauce. Actually, the Bellissimos have never revealed their recipe, but years of experimentation have produced a convincing facsimile of the original recipe.

Wings began to pick up in popularity when a story extolling their deliciousness appeared in a 1981 New York Times story that breathlessly described the "inspired combination" of crispy wings coated in their signature "tasty, buttery sauce," served with celery sticks and a homemade bleu cheese dressing.

Serving the spicy wings with celery and a homemade bleu cheese dressing was Teressa's solution to cool the mouth between bites – though Ranch dressing has overtaken blue cheese in popularity, the Chicken Council reports.

The dish became a favorite in Buffalo, with almost every bar and restaurant  in town coming up with its own variation. City officials declared the first Chicken Wing Day in Buffalo, NY, on July 29, 1977.

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