There is no doubt that the Family Style Chicken Dinners served by Zehnder’s today, were served first, right across the street, by the Fischer family at Fischer’s Hotel now the Bavarian Inn. But why chicken dinners? Why not beef, pork or some type of seafood? And why serve it “Family Style”? Why not just serve it up individually on a plate? Why not a buffet? Before he passed away, I had a number of conversations with the last of my surviving Zehnder uncles, Leonard, about the facts and his recollections as they pertained to the history of our company.
I asked him, “Why chicken dinners?” He went on to educate me (he was a college professor most of his career) that the chickens served in Frankenmuth prior to 1965, were the heavy egg laying hens that were processed for eating when they could no longer produce eggs. They could weigh up to six pounds. He also went on to say that the price of chickens, before the process of mass production today, rivaled or exceeded that of beef, veal, and pork. Therefore, he went on to say, that chickens were generally reserved for Sunday dinner or other special occasions. Remember the promise of prosperity often linked to Herbert Hoover of a “chicken in every pot….”? Ok, then why serve all the food in large platters and dishes Family Style? Uncle Leonard was quick to point out that when the dinner was developed, agriculture and small farms were a popular profession and certainly a local way of life. It was normal that during harvest, the women would serve the field workers large platters of food on big tables that they passed and shared among themselves. Plus, he was quick to remember, that’s how families ate back then. In the William Zehnder, Sr. family of six boys and two girls, ten were sitting at the table and it was just easier for mom to serve everything on platters. So that’s it. Sometimes simple ideas that bring friends and family around a table to share a platter of food and make some memories still has a place in the world of fast paced, quick service, prepackaged drive through meals. I’ll take a second helping. From our family to yours, your table is waiting for you at Zehnder’s.
Al Zehnder, CEO of Zehnder’s of Frankenmuth