In Massachusetts, Chicken Tenders Are Regional Delicacy

According to a study conducted by Fast Company, they appear on menus here far more than in the rest of the country.


Chicken tender photo via Shutterstock

When you picture the regional food that defines us in Massachusetts, you probably envision clam chowder or baked beans or lobster rolls or, we don’t know, munchkins. So it might surprise you to learn that statistically, the food that actually most distinguishes our state from the others is … chicken tenders?

That’s if a new study from Fast Company is to be believed, anyway. The magazine used a database of menus from restaurants in each state, comparing the frequency with which certain words appeared in one state to their occurrence on menus nationwide. The word with the biggest disparity became that state’s “crown jewel food.” In Massachusetts, chicken tenders appear on 52 percent of menus, compared to just 35 percent of menus nationwide. That was enough to make them the No. 1 dish here in the Bay State.

This news is at once impressive and a little disappointing. On the one hand, chicken tenders are literally the greatest, most scrumptious dish humankind has ever conceived, so the fact that Massachusetts champions them is evidence of our great taste as a Commonwealth. On the other hand, chicken tenders are not exactly a quaint regionalism. In this study, Maine and New Hampshire’s No. 1 food was haddock. Connecticut’s was clams. That’s the salty, distinctive stuff of tourism brochures and summer novels. Chicken tenders are … ubiquitous.

Plus, while the data doesn’t lie, anecdotally, it doesn’t really feel like Massachusetts is overly fond of chicken tenders compared to other states, does it? Perhaps the rest of the country calls them “chicken fingers” on menus, and that’s why “tenders” stood out as distinctly more present in Massachusetts. But that’s conjecture. Maybe we really do just have great, if unoriginal, taste in finger foods. Other states got pretty strange results, too. North Dakota got sugar. New York got eggplant. And hey, at least we’re not Rhode Island. They got Parmesan cheese.