The story of a trademark feud between two cities and a recipe that stood the test of time
By Christina Stock
It is hard to believe, but today is Super Sunday. Families and friends are getting together all over the U.S. and overseas to watch the final game — watching and hoping for their favorite team to win. No matter which team you are rooting for, all fans hope for the same: An exciting game with good sportsmanship; that the National Anthem will be sung the correct way; that the halftime show with Jennifer Lopez and Shakira will be great; that the advertisements are going to be funny; and, of course, that there will be lots of good food.
Those who collect the recipes and stories I share may remember last year’s recipe for one of my favorite snacks on Super Sunday: Original Buffalo Wings, just as they are made in every little town in Upstate New York where I encountered them the first time in 1999. My then-husband-to-be (we married in 2000) told me the recipe’s history. He said that it had been invented in Buffalo, New York, in a small family-owned restaurant, the Anchor Bar. The mother and cook at the time had a boy who was in that “eating-your-hair-off-your-head” phase and one day, sometime in 1964, the teenager came with his friends and asked for some food. The kitchen was closed and all the mother had were chicken wings, which she was wanting to use for broth. The creative mom deep fried the wings and smothered them in her special sauce, serving them with blue cheese and celery. That was all she had on her hands. From there the legend grew. If the story is true, nobody knows. It makes for a believable story though.
I stumbled last week over another disputed recipe when I was looking for an alternative recipe to add to my, and your, the reader’s, collection of sauce recipes. It is a sweet and sour sauce that two cities call “their” sauce. Washington D.C. claims that its sauce originated in a restaurant called “Wings-n-Things” in the late 1960s — they named it Mumbo sauce. The Chicago Tribune had covered Chicago’s claim to the Mumbo sauce in several articles. According to its legend in the Windy City, it was invented by Argia B. Collins, an African American who opened his first restaurant in Chicago’s southern neighborhood, Bronzeville, in 1950. Well, much to the chagrin of the folks in D.C., a trademark existed for it, legend was actually fact. Fast forward and the fight got serious. In 2011, one of the producers of industrial-made Mumbo Sauce in Washington D.C. wanted to change the name’s legal trademark status into a generic one. This would mean everybody could put the word “Mumbo” on its label, but it was too late.
He might have been successful in the 1980s, but by 2013, there had already been several trademark disputes won by the rightful intellectual owners — for example in 2008, the international courts found that the name of “Bordeaux” can only be used if the product actually originated in Bordeaux, France. The German branch of the company Pilsener Urquell moved its headquarters back to the original company in Czech after the fall of the wall in 1989, to avoid any issues.
In 2013, after two years of court battles, a Trademark Trial and Appeal Board hearing, Mumbo sauce remained Chicago-based Select Brand’s trademark.
However, there are many restaurants and recipe bloggers who have their variation of the sauce, companies just can’t call it “Mumbo.”
With such an interesting history, I could not resist to find out how this sauce would taste. I compared over 50 recipes to put together a recipe that has all the common ingredients. Of course, I had to tweak it a bit to my taste, as you can do as well.
Here is the Chicago sauce, which is also served in Washington D.C.
It is easy to prepare and cook, even if you decide to do it today, before the game.
4 ounces tomato paste
1 cup white sugar
1.5 cups distilled white vinegar (4% acidity)
1.5 cups pineapple juice
4 teaspoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon powdered ginger
1/4 teaspoon hot sauce (this is where I changed it completely)
I didn’t use 1/4 teaspoon hot sauce. After all, we’re in New Mexico and can handle the heat. You don’t taste anything with a measly 1/4 teaspoon. I added a shot glass of the hot sauce I had on hand, which was Buffalo sauce (the most popular brand of Buffalo, New York). But it still didn’t really have a kick, so I added a teaspoon of cayenne pepper — now we’re talking. You too can change it to your taste, just remember, if you leave it overnight in the fridge, the heat intensifies.
Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl, preferably with a whisk in order to break up clumps of tomato paste and ginger powder.
Add into a coated saucepot (or a small slow cooker.)
Simmer on low, do not boil, for about 30 minutes so the flavors combine. It is a rather thin sauce — if you like it a little thicker, add 1 teaspoon of cornstarch into 1/4 cup water, mix and put into the sauce, let it come to a quick boil, stirring constantly and remove it from the heat. The thickening only works on the stovetop. Taste and add the above-mentioned ingredients as you like.
According to the original recipe, you can use it now to drizzle on the wings or as a dip for your guests.
Again, I did it differently. I basted the fried wings with the sauce and baked them 10 minutes on each side at 250 degrees Fahrenheit in the oven. After 20 minutes, I basted them again and enjoyed them. It is a trick I learned from my niece in Upstate New York who worked in one of those wing restaurants; it really sets the sauce.
The sauce can be refrigerated for up to two weeks, thanks to the vinegar and sugar, which is a preservative. However, you need to have them in the fridge in a sparkly clean container, not outside. I recommend looking up the food safety recommendation from the FDA, which we published Jan. 26 in the Vision section. It is available on the FDA webpage, too.
One piece of advice I was happy to adhere to: Everyone warned not to use any other vinegar but the white, lower acidic vinegar. After tasting and enjoying the result, I am glad I did. It would have ruined the flavor if I would have used apple cider vinegar or any other.
From our family to yours, enjoy Super Sunday and may your favorite team win.