General Tso’s Chicken, and other Foul Fowls

We’ve got American food cornered. Thanks to the Golden Arches, you can find a tasty bit of what-might-maybe food that is even worthy of our presidents. But after watching a video wherein a native born Chinese woman was put in the situation of  rating Midwestern American Chinese food, I found myself facing a horrible query…

Who was General Tso?

I’ve been eating this guy’s chicken for years. Chances are, you’ve had a bite of his bird as well. So who is this man, whose chicken do we cherish?

Well, it turns out that he might just be the epitome of an earlier post about a little Koi. He flunked the Imperial government test seven times. And yet, he persisted, eventually rising to prominence as a military adviser. However, his heart was somewhere else…

I wish I had a green thumb. My father’s father certainly did. Me, I’m just a writer. Apparently, so was Zuo Zontang, better known as General Tso. So what did he write about?


This is mythicaly deep; our oldest goddesses govern the grain and oversee the harvest. Be it Demeter, Ceres, or the stars we call the Pleiades,  the mythos of food runs through our collective conscious, and perhaps our unconscious as well. Food is life, and that is something that Zuo Zontang, or General Tso, as we call him, knew quite well.

He advocated, and succeeded, in  bringing printing technology to China. And what did  he write about?


Chicken? Maybe not.

In the same way that America invented Chop Suey, we’ve had a penchant for creating our own not-quite-authentic Asian savories.General Tso never gave out his chicken recipe, much like an equally famed American chicken slinger, the good old Colonel Sanders.

In other words, none of us will ever enjoy General Tso’s actual chicken. It rests, forgotten in an infernal fridge, like the gods of old. One can only hope that they take a bite from time to time (vegetarian deities excused).

But this begs a bigger, avian centered question…

Are there more mythic birds, hovering around in the skies?

The answer, in truth, is yes.

From Garuda, the vehicle of the Hindu god Vishnu, to the Hoopoe, the bird who leads a cluster of winged creatures in search of a savior in Attar’s  Conference of the Birds  (written nearly a thousand years ago), birds have earned their place in human mythos. Even American mythology celebrates birds, from the bald eagle to the Thanksgiving turkey.

Now, there can be no question as to who the most famous mythic bird is: the Phoenix. But, as with so many other tales, this is a story we will have to revisit another time. Don’t worry, the Phoenix is patient, and can afford to be…

Because even with 11 secret herbs, neither the General or the Colonel has figured out how to that cook bird yet….





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