“Listen, KFC, we need to talk. You guys might need to…start cooling your shit.”
We as a society have an incredibly short memory when it comes to change. We freak the fuck out whenever Facebook alters it’s news feed only to completely forget about our reaction the next time they change the layout and we again, collectively, lose our shit. That ability to accept the occasional big change while glossing over the small ones is completely natural, but it does mean that every so often we need to take a step back and look to see if we’ve gone too far. Similarly to how you can watch eight seasons of a TV show and not realize how much the actors have aged until you revisit the first episode, we might not realize how far off the rails some of our favorite American establishments have gone until we take a step back and compare it to Japan.
Which brings us to our inaugural edition of our latest running article—The State of Our Union. We will take an iconic American establishment and look at it with fresh, new eyes, to put in perspective if it truly is American, or if we’ve created a monster. First up, we have a beloved institution that has been in existence since 1930—KFC, the artist formerly known as Kentucky Fried Chicken.
The State of Our Union: KFC
Harland Sanders opened the first KFC in Corbin, Kentucky, where it was a standalone restaurant until the 1950s, when Sanders realized the franchise potential behind his famous fried chicken recipe. pressure fried hunks of chicken are coated with eleven herbs and spices to make the colonel’s Original Recipe fried chicken, which represented the first time a restaurateur attempted to establish a fast food eatery around something other than hamburgers. Soon enough, with business booming, he was able to expand and franchise.
He opened his first franchised location in 1952 in Utah, a prime location that, wait seriously, Salt Lake City got a KFC before any other non-Kentucky state in America? That…for real? Granted, there’s no reason to assume that Mormons shouldn’t be allowed to eat fried chicken, but then again we’re still trying to figure out why they’re not allowed to drink Coca-Cola. But yeah. Huh. Utah.
Now we all know “Colonel Sanders” as the face of Kentucky Fried Chicken, but as he entered his 70s he couldn’t keep up with the work of running a major, nation-wide chain, and he sold the company in 1962, at which point it immediately went about expanding around the world years (and in many cases, decades) before its fast food competitors even imagined an international market. As a result, KFC has become an international symbol of America’s brilliance and culinary prowess (or at least, ability to take a moderately healthy animal and make it facefuckingly bad for you).
Now before we look at the menu for KFC and discuss its pros (fried chicken is delicious!) and its cons (the double down objectively tastes like shame and Crisco!) we must mention their latest publicity stunt which delves way too far on the crazy side of things.
The KFC Corsage
Yes, KFC is selling corsages, and yes, it’s popular enough that it’s selling out, and yes, maybe Americans need to learn to stop spending their money on limited-time-only shit that’s stupid for ironic purposes. Seriously, everyone needs to calm the fuck down. KFC decided to partner with Nanz & Kraft Florists in Louisville to make 100 corsages for $20 that come with a $5 KFC gift check to be used to “customize” your corsage (read as- buy a piece of fucking chicken and stick it on your wrist). The first batch was so popular that it sold out almost immediately, and a second batch had to be made. Which means that at least 200 people went to prom and come home with grease stains all over their expensive dresses.
Listen, we love fried chicken, and we love absurdity, but this is the point where you have to stop and think about the consequences of your actions. Prom’s last a long time, and you spend a lot of time dancing. And have you ever ordered from KFC and had to drive home, say, 30 minutes before eating it, do you remember the greasy, sloughed-off-skin consistency? Sure, you ate it, and it was delicious (well, it was fine, as far as fast food goes), but could you imagine that lump of trans fats and disintegrating breading sitting for an extra three hours, all while placed on top of your wrist while you’re trying to get lucky? You’re going to perennially smell like fried chicken grease which means you might share a comradery with your school’s 300 pound janitor, but that’s about it. This is too much. You’ve done gone too far, KFC. You’ve done did it.
The Rest of the KFC Menu
KFC used to stick to fried chicken in a bucket. End of transaction. You could get white, you could get dark, you would get fat, it’s a very simple and American contract. The process has since gotten more complicated, with mixed results. While Original Recipe remains a big seller, and Extra Crispy seems to be the same but, you know, crispier, KFC also offers Kentucky Grilled Chicken for the more health-conscious fast food eatahhahaha we almost said that with a straight face, why are you going to KFC to eat grilled chicken, you goddamn maniac? We feel that the only people who’d actually order a grilled chicken breast at a place called “Kentucky Fried Chicken” (“actually they changed the name to just KFC because” oh shut up we don’t care) is if you’re an actual alien mimicking human form but not yet used to the customs of our species, or if you’re someone who gets very nervous in public, and menus make you anxious, and you just randomly pointed at a menu item and sighed in disappointment when you realized what you accidentally ordered.
The rest of the chicken side of the KFC menu are pretty commonsense expansions of an all-chicken establishment. Hot Wings, Original Recipe Bites, and Extra Crispy Tenders are all acceptable variations of chicken for the people who think they’re too good to just eat a family sized bucket of fried chicken with two sides by themselves as they sob uncontrollably and burn their gym contract, muttering to themselves, “There’s no turning back, this is life now.”
And then we get to the Go Cups.
KFC, you’re starting to lose us here. We’re saying this because we’re concerned about you. We’re saying this because you seem to be… well, you’ve been different lately. You used to be about buckets of chicken and small Styrofoam containers of sides. Now you’re taking chicken tenders and hot wings or, Christ, is that a chicken slider, and mashing them in tiny little cups with a handful of potato wedges because you’re trying to convince us that this is somehow a more convenient method of eating than a goddamn drumstick? This is sad, and weird, and wholly unnecessary, no matter how many tiny gifs you try to make to convince us otherwise.
This brings us into the sandwiches. We get why you’d need to bring sandwiches into play, but we still question the kind of person who feels compelled to order that. For most of us, KFC is enough of a sometimes food that if we end up there, we might as well get the fried chicken because, well, that’s what they’re there for. But if you’re going here to get a sandwich with some name like the Doublicious, which apparently is a chicken sandwich topped with Monterey Jack, bacon, and sauce on a Hawaiiin bun, or the Chicken Littles, which are smaller, more basic mayo-chicken-pickle combos, you’re either someone who doesn’t really like fried chicken but wants a chicken sandwich, or you’re someone who goes to KFC so much that you have to mix things up a little bit so you don’t get bored. We’re not saying that the thought of people out there who list KFC as their default go-to restaurant depresses us a little bit, but we are saying that we started drinking now and it sure as hell isn’t for celebratory reasons.
Objectively, we should love the KFC Double Down. True story, one of our staff writers was once in Europe, and was talking to two teenagers about how great America is (answer—so great) and he got to describing the KFC Double Down, saying, “Well, so it’s like a chicken, cheese, and bacon sandwich, only instead of bread, you have, uh, two pieces of bacon,” and the Europeans just sort of looked at him for a while before saying, “That is the most grossly American thing we have ever heard of.” And it’s true! Only in America can a multi-billion dollar corporation say, “Fuck bread, have some meat with your meat piggies, OINK OINK OINK” and have no one bat a fucking eye. “What’s that? Two greasy pieces of chicken smushed together with some bacon, cheese, and weird sauce in the middle? That’s fine, we’ll eat it, but move out of the way we’re in line to get a doughnut made out of a croissant, or maybe a taco made out of Doritos.” That’s amazing, but again, the more you look at the sandwich, the more you realize it’s a cheap marketing gimmick that doesn’t really set out to do what it aims to.
If you want to embrace the Double Down as the ultimate in “Ugh, Americans eat disgusting unhealthy fatty foods” you’ll be disappointed by its 540 calories and 32 grams of fat, the former being about a quarter of your daily allotment, and the second, well, okay that one is pretty bad, good job KFC. And as far as absurdity goes, as much as they bill it as a sandwich that replaces bread with meat, if you actually went ahead and deconstructed the Double Down, replacing the meat again with bread, you’d have the saddest sandwich you’ve ever seen. Two halves of a bacon strip on top of a piece of cheese with some sauce ladled on there? That’s not how America does sandwiches.
And finally, how does it taste? We won’t claim our experience to be universal, but we found that it was greasy, salty, but ultimately underwhelming. It doesn’t fill you up nearly as much as it should, so you don’t even get a sense of accomplishment reserved for your standard “American eating way too much food” experience. It just leaves you feeling a little bit hungry, with a general thought process of, “Well, I guess I somewhat enjoyed that experience, on a visceral level, but now I feel a little dirty knowing I can’t say I’ve never done this.” Sort of like ordering a prostitute.
Some people get a craving for KFC specifically for their sides, memories of family meals with 12 piece buckets and their choice of mashed potatoes and gravy, mac & cheese, coleslaw, biscuits, potato edges, or maybe corn or greenbeans if something is wrong with you and you don’t know how to be unhealthy correctly. Sure, you can find better versions of all of these dishes at any home-style restaurant, but there’s a specific KFCness to them that nostalgia or your blood sodium levels crashing down to normal levels sometimes make your body crave. There’s nothing wrong with that, and in fact, we enjoy helping ourselves to KFC’s mashed potatoes and gravy every now and again, which are especially delicious when drunk.
But then we get something like the KFC Famous Bowls, which have only existed for some five years, and which have always been referred to as being Famous. They were most definitely not famous before they existed, and they’re arguably not even famous now, but we suppose KFC had to do something to distract you from the general concept of, “We’re going to fuck a bunch of chicken into some of our sides and you’re going to eat it out of a bowl and like it, you understand?” that is the impetus of this dish. The Famous Bowls take a half-bowl of mashed potatoes and crams some sweet corn and chicken chunks in there, at which point they douse it with gravy and cover the crime scene with shredded cheese to make a dish that says, “Look at me, I’m the kind of person that cares not to have my food separated, please, put a bunch of shit in a trough for me and let me go to town, I’ve lost any ounce of self-respect long ago.”
For those keeping track, this has 140 calories more than the Double Down, and yet no one has ever complained about the health implications of a dish that is, essentially, a snowball made out of compacted KFC menu items. Awesome.
KFC also sells a pot pie, and they offer cake and cookies as a dessert. That’s fine, we have no problem with that.
So, where does that leave us? Looking back at KFC, we find serviceable chicken with a rich American history that maybe, just maybe, needs to work on simplifying their shit a little bit. They’re great at what they started off doing, but now are trying trick shots when they don’t need to. We don’t really need a Double Down sandwich. Hell, we don’t really need any KFC sandwich. And we sure as fuck don’t need any Famous Bowls, which aren’t even crazy enough into shocking us into ordering them on a dare like the Double Down is.
So KFC. Keep it simple. You’ll still be American.
CURRENT STATE OF KFC: In Danger of Entering Japanese Territory