History books often claim that the pledge to provide working-class families with a “chicken in every pot” was first uttered by U.S. president Herbert Hoover during the beginning of the Great Depression to reassure growing numbers of poor and unemployed Americans that they would not starve.
But these reports are wrong, on several counts.
Hoover did indeed promise “a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage” during his 1928 presidential campaign, but the start of the Depression in the U.S. is typically tied to the stock market crash of Oct. 29, 1929, long after his chicken promise helped him get elected. Even more significantly–He’s wasn’t the first to coin that particular phrase.
The honors go to France’s King Henri IV, who in the 17th century pledged to create policy so that the nation’s peasants would have a “chicken in his pot every Sunday.” And from that pledge—completely unfulfilled, but the way—was born the classic French dish poule au pot (chicken in the pot).
What is poule au pot? In a nutshell, it is a one-pot dish that includes a roaster chicken, vegetables, herbs, and in some cases pork, veal and eggs, that is simmered for several hours. And like many classic French dishes, including boeuf bourguignon, coq au vin and cassoulet, its origins lie among France’s peasantry that relied upon cheap ingredients and local food sources to feed their families.
One of the best places in Paris to try poule au pot is at the aptly named La Poule au Pot, a fantastic 1st Arrondissement restaurant founded in the Les Halles district in 1935—80 years ago!—that specializes in traditional bistro fare, including steak tartare, escargots, foie gras, tripe, veal kidneys and steak au poivre. But the signature dish is, of course, a picture-perfect version poule au pot.
For 40 euros, diners can order a quintessentially French meal—a choice of shirred eggs with cream or a green salad for a starter, poule au pot and tarte Tatin for dessert. (No, you don’t get the entire pot—but you do receive a huge serving of the completed dish). Or, if you haven’t got an enormous appetite, just order the poule au pot from the a la carte menu, available for 26 euros.
No, the food isn’t particularly cheap at provincial La Poule au Pot. But it’s worth every euro.
La Poule au Pot is open Tuesday-Sunday from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m. (yes, it’s open very, very late, and it’s often quite crowded even as late as 2 a.m.). It is located at 9 Rue Vauvilliers—a charming pedestrian-only street just north of Rue de Rivoli (Metro: Les Halles/Louvre-Rivoli).
If you can’t make it to Paris anytime soon, here is the restaurant’s recipe for traditional poule au pot.