Cross-the-Road Chicken: A Culinary Riddle

Cross The Road Chicken Life Nov 6 1970

Oh look, the most unfortunately worded ad, and the worst-named dish, of 1970. This ad was in Life, not – you won’t be surprised about this – in Ms. Magazine.

First, let’s insult women:

Tomato aspic on limp lettuce leaves may go down okay with the ladies. But when a man comes home, he wants to eat.

So before you delicate ladies start chewing on aspic and soggy lettuce leaves, tie on a frilly apron and start making some real food for the man of the house. Since men “don’t take hours over a hot green pea like you do,” you ought to use frozen veggies.  Yes, well. I don’t really want to know about men and a hot green pea, do you? I thought not.

And why oh why do they call it Cross-the-Road Chicken? Does Birdseye want us to think about running away from this dish? Are you supposed to tell riddles and jokes while you serve it? And if the chicken is indeed on the other side of the road, how are you even supposed to make this?


The road-crossing chicken first turned up in a riddle in 1847 in the New York City magazine The Knickerbocker. There really were chickens running around New York back then – not right downtown, and they weren’t crossing Broadway to see some shows, but people did keep them. In 1867, for example, a person signing themselves W.J.P. wrote a letter to the New York Times complaining of all the “flocks of chickens and herds of goats” running wild in the city streets – and crossing any roads they liked – mainly on the East Side, he wrote, above 20th Street.

Surely this is not the mental image Birdeye had in mind, but it does spring to mind. Springs and runs and generally makes a person not want to have anything to do with this dinner menu.

And what in the world is in the Mason jar down at bottom left? Never mind, I do not really want to know.

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10 thoughts on “Cross-the-Road Chicken: A Culinary Riddle

  1. I don't know about you, but I know quite a few men who take their time with a hot green pea.What an incredibly unfortunate copy for such a fine dish. The Chicken crossed the road to be killed for this lovely dish. Arg.

  2. You said this was a 1970-ad? How cross is that? Those who have thought of such a sexist ad should be sentenced to read through all the Women's Liberation Manifestos and than be slapped with one of the Cross-the-Road-Chickens. How do you succeed in finding all those gems, anyway, dear Lidian, oh magical discoverer of gems?

  3. I would have pegged the ad much earlier. And I was wondering about the mason jar too…awfully large to be for any spice powder…hope it's not the leftover chicken parts :P But hey, maybe a man would like that too.

  4. I love the way it says a man will love this meal. Oh, and by the way, (small, unimportant addition): you will, too. Gee, thanks! And we ladies won't like it because it tastes good – oh, no – we'll like it because it's so easy to prepare. Because we're all lazy, of course – just looking for the easy way out, anything to shut up the MAN and get him back out in the garage or the backyard.HA!

  5. Hazy memories…flickering…like the images in the crystal ball in Wizard of Oz… Wasn't there an odd resurgence in the popularity of Mason jars back in the late 1970's? Adaptive reuse for things like beverages, cotton balls, marijuana?…maybe I'm just having a flashback…

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