More Chinese food memories for Christmas

As I explained last year, Chinese food is the traditional Jewish meal for Christmas. Typically combined with a movie, on Christmas Jews go out to a Chinese restaurant when others are opening presents, going to church, and having a big meal.

One of my favorite Chinese food memories is visiting the tic-tac-toe playing chicken in New York’s Chinatown.

Off in an arcade was — yes! — a chicken who would play tic-tac-toe. And it never, ever lost.

The chicken always got to go first and then people who had deposited the requisite number of coins for the privilege of playing the chicken would go next

When I would go to Chinatown with my family, we went into a hole in the wall place that had some menu items advertised on big sheets of paper with Chinese lettering on it. That was the way to get a great meal. Then we usually picked up something at a Chinese food market or bakery and stopped by this amazing arcade.

By the way, we didn’t get our Christmas Chinese food in Chinatown. It wasn’t that close to home and would have required driving through a lot of traffic. But my memories of Chinese food, kindled by Christmas, are linked to the tic-tac-toe playing chickens.

But there is no tic-tac-toe playing chicken in Chinatown anymore.

According to a 2009 story in the NY Daily News, Lily, the last tic-tac-toe playing chicken, went to a farm in 1998. It explains:

According to a story in the New Yorker from 1999, chickens were trained in Hot Springs Arkansas, by Animal Behavior Enterprises, started by Keller and Marian Breland, both psychologists. After Keller’s death, Marian married animal trainer Bob Brailey. Dr. Marian Bailey was one of B. F. Skinner’s earliest graduate students.

The article casts this as a rescue of Lily, but I think the bird might have really liked the attention it got in the arcade.

Amy Fried

About Amy Fried

Amy Fried loves Maine's sense of community and the wonderful mix of culture and outdoor recreation. She loves politics in three ways: as an analytical political scientist, a devoted political junkie and a citizen who believes politics matters for people's lives. Fried is Professor of Political Science at the University of Maine. Her views do not reflect those of her employer or any group to which she belongs.