Say it's 6 p.m. on a weeknight. You're tired, you're heartbroken, you don't like your job. You had a difficult phone conversation and your AC is broken. You feel like no matter what you do, the universe spins on, impassive, entirely beyond your control. You have no fucking clue what to make for dinner.
Enter: the rotisserie chicken. Crispy and golden, juicy and fragrant, waiting patiently on the warming rack of pretty much any grocery store you can think of. All you have to do is select one, and maybe serve it alongside some vegetables and/or potatoes and/or a glass of wine or three. You did it: You made a real, grown-up meal, in hardly more than the time it takes to pry the plastic lid from that ubiquitous black container.
A grocery store rotisserie chicken (GSRC) stands out in a sea of prepared and frozen food options. So often, eating a microwave burrito or thawing out a bag of peas feels like giving up, like acquiescing to your exhaustion or general lack of creativity. But a GSRC feels like a choice. It's practically a life hack, a loophole in the rigid fabric that constitutes everyday life: accomplishment with little effort, satisfaction without sacrifice.
Part of the GSRC's charm is its consistency. Sure, there are plenty that are better than others (Publix fans seem to be willing to dismember you with a thighbone if you even suggest that their beloved chicken is not The Very Best There Is), but truly, the bar is already pretty high. I don't know that I've ever had a bad one, a sentiment echoed by my co-workers, noted millennials and rabid consumers of meat. When so little is guaranteed — that you'll get a text back, that you'll get a raise, that you'll figure it all out — the fact that you can walk or drive for a few minutes and acquire something that will bring you true, brief stability is worth way more than $6.99.
The other part of its appeal lies in its versatility. You might be perfectly happy picking the meat off the bones with your fingers, like a werewolf or that guy in Amélie. You can slice up the pieces for a sandwich, or mix them with mayo for chicken salad. You can dress it up or down, you can take it with you almost anywhere (I recommend the movies or Amtrak), and you can eat the leftovers cold the next morning with no appreciable difference in quality. You're buying more than just a chicken: You're buying possibility.
Maybe you are a non-meat-eater and this does not apply to you. Maybe you always have the time to lovingly prepare your dinner, far in advance of the 6 p.m. panic, and the thought of taking a shortcut makes you snort with derision and gag at the same time. (Impressive!) You do not have to buy a rotisserie chicken, from the grocery store or anywhere. You do not have to do anything that your heart doesn't impel you to do. Maybe you prefer to roast your own chicken, an admirable pursuit.
But just know that when the preheating oven takes too long, the trussing gets to be too much, and you start to doubt whether you have what it takes to care for yourself every single day that you live on this earth, there's a solution. It's cheap, and it's humble, and it tastes just like home.