Isn’t Life Wonderful (or, My Introduction to Chicken Salt)

Unlike my wife, Showdown XL is not pretty. The latest installment of the Adelaide-Port Adelaide stoush is considered finished half-way though the second quarter and I’m sitting on the couch distracted by online footy business. Then something wonderful happens – my wife quietly comments on the game:

“Huh, the ball nearly hit a Chicken Salt sign behind the goals.”

I’m shocked. I do not begrudge my wife her disinterest in footy – she doesn’t expect me, or anyone else, to enjoy The Living Room (Channel Ten’s “edgy” Friday-night lifestyle program) – so it is a wonderful surprise to find that not only has she not flicked backed to the The Living Room, she is paying attention to what is fast becoming Letdown XL. Isn’t life wonderful?

As I look up to gaze upon her glory, her words sink in.

“Pardon?”

“There’s a sign in the stand that just says Chicken Salt, and the ball nearly hit it.”

Now I’ve been to South Australia, and I know that they have diverse and unusual interests. Theirs is a culture that I have a soft spot for, in all its quirkiness. I love the way they call construction toys Lay-go and not Leg-oh, and the way they’ll rig a barbeque into 1990 Honda Acty, drive it onto the beach, park it below the high-tide line, and feed the hordes. I love the way everyone in an Adelaide family can have the same surname-based nickname (I’m looking at you Johnnos) and how Adelaide has fish and chip shops named after marine creatures you shouldn’t eat. I love that a pint of beer served in a pub is served in a pint glass that isn’t actually a pint. Isn’t life wonderful?

So I start paying closer attention to the game, because although I have never contemplated such simplicity – indeed I have never imagined such a thing possible – the idea of advertising something as seemingly insignificant as chicken salt at a footy match immediately makes sense. The idea gels like agar in petri dish, and my pique cultures. (Note: I have been known to indulge in chicken salt…) Before long Chad Wingard lines up for shot at goal and kicks it. Sure enough there it is: A simple black sign gracing a balcony fascia of the Riverbank Stand and etched with eleven simple white letters.

Chicken. Salt.

Isn’t life wonderful?

“See, I told you.”

“You did,” I reply, immediately engaging the search engine, typing Adelaide Oval Chicken Salt, hitting return. This is no longer just about footy. As the buffering begins my mind floods with questions, each unfinished: But…? How…? Who in their right mind would…?

Faster than you can say WTF (no Mum, that stands for Why The Face) the hits come in. I link to the first, a thread from Rory:

                 Best part of Adelaide Oval? They kept the Chicken Salt signs from Footy Park

What?! These are heritage signs?! That is soooo Footy Park. Of course – Footy Park! Where else but Footy Park?!

“Oh my god! They’ve brought them over from Footy Park! They’ve got heritage! They’re heritage chicken salt signs!” I announce.

“What’s Footy Park?”

 

A Brief History of Football Park

Location: Deepest, darkest, coldest suburbia, Adelaide, South Australia.

Nickname: Artic park (sic)

Seated Capacity: 51,240

Largest Crowd: 80,000 (Robbie Williams concert, 2006)

Fun Fact: Alcohol was banned from the seated area in 1985 and it took 24 years for the Southwark Rebellion to succeed. It was a bitter struggle.

Bonus Fact: A recent online forum post posited that Adelaide Oval (which last year superseded Footy Park as the city’s premier football ground) had a different climate to Footy Park, suggesting that the Oval would be a less – that’s less – pleasant place to attend football matches. Footy Park is a concrete wasteland without heritage Chicken Salt signs. The Oval – twelve kilometres east of Footy Park – is world-renowned and is one of the top-three sports stadiums in the country. It also has a heritage Chicken Salt sign. Suffice to say, no one joined the thread.

 

Back to Chicken Salt, and Dan – agreeing with Rory’s positive feelings about chicken salt signs – adds:

                 Chicken Salt is the best chicken salt.

Hang on a half-an-hour-behind minute!!! Is this really a story about a particular chicken salt product that has been imaginatively branded as Chicken Salt? This is absolutely brilliant. I thought the sign was just promoting chicken salt in general, but it’s actually advertising Chicken Salt chicken salt. Life is indeed wonderful.

“So,” I say, “it’s a brand of chicken salt that’s called Chicken Salt.”

“Come again?”

“It’s called Chicken Salt – capital C, capital S.”

“No way!!”

“Way. This is like The Living Room in real-life. It’s like the ‘Hot or Not’ segment.”

“Huh?”

Whatever, thread two. Jethro asks:

                 Does anybody know what’s with the “Chicken Salt” sign on the tiered grandstand end? What business would pay for a sign that simply says Chicken Salt?

Good Questions Jeth, excellent questions. What is with that? Crow has the answers…

                 It’s mitani brand chicken salt. there is mitani logos to either side of the chicken salt wording.

Okay. Now we’re getting somewhere. Have company name, search engine idling. Meantime, someone else has hit the post:

                 It’s Mitani Chicken salt. You can only just make out their “Mitani” logo on either side of the words “chicken salt”. There’s also a target over the “E” in “chicken” because it’s directly behind the goals.

Cool. I provide an update:

“Apparently there’s a target over the e in chicken.”

“What, for the players to hit the ball with?”

“Apparently.”

“Has anyone ever hit it?”

Now that is a question. It’s probably The Question. Smart woman my wife, always on the ball. Thread three, and Stu’s happy:

                 I was on L5, but I didn’t go to the food places today, my sister who I took to the game grabbed some chips for me. She obliviously didn’t see the chicken salt. Good to hear it is back after its mysterious disappearance.

It had a mysterious disappearance?! We’ve got heritage and history, and now we have intrigue and speculation! Was it poor sales? Competitors? Why did it disappear?

“Why did what disappear?” asks my wife. Clearly I’m now talking aloud to myself. Isn’t life wonderful? I read aloud to her Stu’s thoughts.

“What is chicken salt, anyway?” Struth, another great question.

“It’s that stuff that I put on my hot chips that you don’t like on yours.”

“Is that what all those things in the pantry are? They look disgusting!”

“Yep. And yep.”

“You should move to Adelaide.” Good point that.

Thread four, and a poster with a fairly confronting forum handle chimes in with:

                 Chicken salt goes on things other than chips? Why would you even put it on Chicken? Questions must be asked.

Hold on a half-an-hour-behind second there chum – no one ever said it only goes on chips did they? And of course it goes on chicken! It’s chicken salt. Chicken. Salt. No one’s going to invent something called chicken salt and then make it inappropriate for chicken are they? Are they?! Questions are definitely being asked.

Morsey sums it up:

                 I for one am greatly pleased the Mitani Chicken salt is still a prominent sponsor at the oval.

So am I Morsey, so am I. And I’m not alone, because listed among the search engine hits is a link to a Footy Almanac piece about – wait for it – Chicken Salt! I read aloud Mickey’s tale about his ‘Chicken Salt debut’, and his Identical Laminated Menu gets rapturous applause. Essential reading for everyone:

https://www.footyalmanac.com.au/round-17-adelaide-v-gold-coast-suns-a-pillar-of-chicken-salt/

Finally, I redirect the search engine to Mitani. We want to learn more, but we learn more than we want. It begins innocuously enough…

                 Mitani Classic Chicken Salt – for Hot Chips & Chicken

‘And chicken.’ Phew.

                 Mitani Chicken Salt is mostly used on hot chips, chicken, seafood and red meat

Okay, so it’s suitable for all meats. And hot chips. Good.

                 An all natural product

Good to know.

                 In fact there are very few foods that are not suited to our chicken salt…

Agreed…

                 …because even though the name may suggest it has a chicken flavour, there are no chicken extracts or                       

                  concentrates added which adds to it’s versatility.

Stop. Right. There.

Versatile it may be, but no chicken?! It suggests chicken flavour?! But you say it’s natural. Natural what – artificiality? Perhaps life isn’t so wonderful after all…

Further research, and – in response to Mickey’s tale – Swish informs us that the Mitani Maestro who created this versatile flavourbomb used… wait for it…

THE SWEATY JUICES OF CHICKENS!

Now I am not happy with the notion of chickenless chicken salt, but neither do I like the sound of this. So, tarred in a feathered and sweaty limbo, I hit the pantry and check the Saxa – ‘chicken flavour’ – and the Masterfoods – ‘Natural Chicken Flavour (9%)’ and am left asking, what voodoo is this?

“What’s what voodoo?”

I’m doing it again. It feels hard to explain, but I give it a go.

“What?! There is no way you’re keeping that shit in the cupboard! I’m chucking it all out right now!”

My head screams ‘Nooooooooooo……..” but I hear myself utter

“Fair enough, probably for the best.”

“My God – how much of this shit have you got?!”

“Could be worse – says here that it comes in cartons of 12x100mg, 8x400mg, and 5x2kg.”

“That’s disgusting!”

Can’t argue with that.

I read on. The last hit is an Addy (Adelaide Advertiser) review of the Dolphin Fish Shop in Netley. It advises that…

                  The chips are short and stubby and covered in just the right amount of chicken salt. Look for family pack specials if  you need to feed a crowd.

…and I know that by ‘family pack’ they mean bulk buys of chicken salt.

 

 

About nick w

Sports Tragic Writer (put the comma where ya wanna)

Comments

  1. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Mitani should sponsor a wing (or a leg) of the new Royal Adelaide Hospital.

  2. Great to hear from you Swish – I’m relying on you to to keep me a-breast of all things chicken salt.
    P.S. my wife’s first question was “Does Swish have an email alert for chicken salt posts?” Bless her…

  3. Dave Brown says

    The great thing about Adelaide Oval and Mitani, Nick, it it is available in little sachets at all food vendors at the oval. And, yes, the ingredients on the sachet confirm no chickens have been harmed in the making of that salt.

  4. nickw- thanks so much for this. As a devotee of the chicken salt concept and its cultural significance to our fair state, I enjoyed this piece immensely although I must declare I’m not a conscious consumer of the product. But I defend our right to eat it and engage in dialogue about its origins and place in contemporary narrative.

    Brilliant. Can I suggest a subsequent piece on fritz?

  5. After reading this story my life is indeed wonderful. It made me laugh out loud.

    I’ve visited Adelaide twice and merely thought it was a place that old Sigmas went to die. Clearly I need re-education. Hopefully Mickey and Swish are up for it.

  6. Thanks all for your wonderful comments – i did note somewhere there was a recent Mitani promotion at the Oval, and I presume those sachets were in the promo bags. I’ll have to get the Johnnos to send me some. In any case, I can’t wait for an away game there that i can get to, and have my photo taken under The Sign with Mickey and Dave, and anyone else that carries a salt torch with which to sweat the artificial juices of chicken. Sorry, that’s just too gross to post – but stuff it.

    Lastly, whilst I don’t know of Fritz (did he play for the Hahndorf under 18’s?) I am – as a sign of my gratitude for your kind words – happy to take on a writing challenge on pretty much any popular sport other than rugby league. Subject to to FA admin, I’ll offer a 14-day turn around from nomination. I’m going out on a limb here, but do your worst! (and so, probably, will I…)

  7. Hi Nick,
    I went looking for a picture of the chicken salt sign after discussing it on our Outer Sanctum podcast recorded earlier this week and found your fabulous article on it. I’ve put a link to it on our website if that’s ok with you? Its in the Susan Alberti guest section (sadly we did not ask her about chicken salt however.. missed opportunity perhaps?) Cheers, Felicity

  8. Hi Felicity, I’m thrilled you enjoyed the ‘article’ (I still think of it as gift basket territory – i.e. sorry just isn’t enough) and I’m honoured to be associated with Susan Alberti and Outer Sanctum. I hope you get to further investigate Chicken Salt chicken salt with Susan and others in the future – I’ll be listening out. For anyone reading, I highly recommend Outer Sanctum’s podcasts (outersanctum.com.au) – it is music to my ears to hear so many people gasp in unison: Did you not know about Chicken Salt?!

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