Spotlight: Chicken Dinner

September 23, 2008

Back in the 1920s, Milwaukee’s Sperry Candy Company gave the world its weirdest treat of all: the Chicken Dinner.

Some misguided soul thought it would be a great idea to trumpet a candy bar’s supposed healthful, fortifying benefits by straddling it with a name that had absolutely nothing to do with it. Indeed, they went so far as to assume that associating a chocolate treat with a greasy, fatty dead animal might increase sales. And, thanks to the inner carnivore in us all, it worked!

The candy’s popularity sky-rocketed during the Great Depression, casting serious doubts on the sound judgment of unemployed masses but providing for a surprisingly enduring candy rack all-star. Now, I’ve always been poor, strictly second-class am I, but I can’t imagine ever being misled into believing that such delights mashed into a little bar and coated with chocolate would entice me to purchase a Chicken Dinner candy bar. Ketchup is not a vegetable, Pop Tarts aren’t fruit, and Chicken Dinner is anything but.

Good Candy(?)

Chicken Dinner: Good Candy(?)

I’m assuming the bar was a mixture of peanut butter, nougat or honeycombed wafers with a generous portion of chocolate, but I unfortunately cannot find a description of the bar’s makeup. Candy historian Ray Broekel claimed to have enjoyed the Chicken Dinner–for its camp value, if not delectability-but had more to say about the novelty of the bar than the bar itself. If some especially long-lived reader can remember such an odd bar, help me figure this out!

 

The Chicken Dinner was accompanied on the shelves by the Full Dinner and–of course–the Chicken Dinner Jr., attesting to the popularity of the bar (and casting serious doubt on the taste of the general public). In a similar vein, the Vegetable Sandwich offered a more wholesome alternative, going so far as to tout its celery, cabbage and pepper bar as a guaranteed deterrent of constipation. (When I’m feeling backed up I turn to confectionary medicinals, don’t you?) All of these curious candies were off the market by the late 1960s, resigning children to decades of chocolate-free peas and carrots ever since.

Chicken Dinner Jr.

Chicken Dinner Jr.

Charles Phoenix shares the following photo on his site www.godblessamericana.com. It’s an old Chrysler Windsor all gussied up to deliver and promote Chicken Dinners. Wow!

Chicken Dinner Delivery Truck

Chicken Dinner Delivery Truck

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