There are no surprises in these stacks of rotisserie chickens, but I inspect them anyway, as if one could be more perfect than another. Each bird is about three pounds, with crispy skin that glistens golden brown, soaking in a pool of warm oil like a private jacuzzi that steams up each plastic case. Perhaps I should be put off by the sameness of my options, the lowest-common-denominator quality of a product this unashamedly mass-produced, the long-term impact on my cardiovascular health. But I’m young and healthy, so the fact that each chicken I hoist at my new Costco in Salt Lake City feels just as it would back home, some 2,500 miles away in Florida, feels good enough.

In case you’re not familiar, Costco is an international chain of warehouse-style wholesale stores and a symbol of American-style consumerism, where small businesses and large families stock up at bulk discounts. But what makes it feel like Costco — beyond the indulgent cart sizes — is the sameness of the products. The rotisserie chicken, famously tucked beside the deli meats at the back of each store, is the same in New Jersey as it is in Japan. And the prices are just as unyielding. Through a global pandemic, record job losses and the worst inflation the United States had seen in decades, these chickens stayed firm at $4.99. That, alone, can be comforting.

And people love it! People have created Facebook fan pages for the Costco rotisserie chicken. They wear T-shirts bearing the product label. They’ve posted YouTube videos of themselves or others feasting on two at a time. That love is enough to transcend the company’s $60 annual membership fee, even in hard times. In 2020, amid record job losses and rolling lockdowns, Costco sold 101 million rotisserie chickens. That number rose to 106 million in 2021, then 117 million in 2022. That’s a lot of birds!

The chicken didn’t bring me to Costco today. It never does. But now the perfume of grease and herbs takes me home, where iterations of this poultry have shown up at family dinners across South Florida for as long as I can remember. My grandmother would crack open bones for a shot at the marrow; my father would pick apart the meat to make croissant sandwiches. “You can put it in soups, sandwiches, eat it with rice, eat it on its own,” he told me years ago, when he first gave me a membership card. It’s the avian embodiment of utility and convenience.

As I place my chosen bounty in my shopping cart, it feels like instant relief. I don’t have to wonder how I’ll use it because it doesn’t matter. I know that I will. It’s one less thing to acclimate to. And that’s good enough.

This story appears in the March 2024 issue of Deseret Magazine. Learn more about how to subscribe.