17 August 2010

70 years! Hail to the Colonel!

I'm told that this is the 70th anniversary of Kentucky Fried Chicken, though it seems like it should be either the 80th (Harland Sanders started cooking chicken at his filling station in Kentucky in 1930) or 60th (the year the first franchise opened up-1950) anniversary. No matter-the corporation says that this is the 70th anniversary, so we'll go with it. Thanks, Colonel, for coming up with the secret recipe and figuring out how to pressure-fry chicken profitably! Well done, sir.

Incidentally, as you probably know, the title of 'Colonel' in Kentucky is an honorific title granted by the Governor of the Commonwealth of Kentucky (it isn't a state, technically). It goes back to the days when those with money, and presumably education, led the local militia unit-much like in Britain in the 1700s and 1800s. Nowadays the title is granted to those who enhance the image of the Commonwealth. Sanders, however, did serve in the Army-as a private. But 'Private Sanders' Secret Recipe' doesn't have much punch as a slogan.

I have to say that I've always been a fan of the Spinning Bucket (although there is a local place, Mulkey's, whose chicken is slightly better than KFC-no matter, they're both good). My parents divorced when I was young, so there weren't a lot of 'family' outings. But one thing I remember is Mom and Dad getting a bucket and the fixings and we took it to a local park for a picnic. Funny the things that remind you of events in life.

I remember when we got KFC in Savanna, back about 1974 or so. I thought we hit the big time! Not only did they have chicken, they served fish and chips in a faux newspaper wrapping-just like the English ate! Well, perhaps not...

But I'd bet that there aren't a lot of us out there who didn't look forward to Dad picking up KFC for supper-the big bucket of chicken, potatoes and gravy (Colonel Sanders was very particular about the gravy and would threaten to pull the franchise from anyone who screwed it up. I think he was right, because it isn't as good now as it was back in the day), coleslaw (I still like the coleslaw. I'd buy a gallon of the stuff if they'd let me. So what if I give off the aroma of a Soviet apartment block?), and biscuits. Or stop by for lunch when on the road, or went for a bucket after a long night of drinking?

In the 1970s, it seemed like every town of any size had a KFC, and they were all about the same, which is what any restaurant chain strives for, of course. There wasn't as much competition in the fast-food arena back then. I do think KFC dropped off some in the 1980s and 1990s in quality. There were and are a lot more options these days.

I'm not one to frequent fast-food much anymore. I think Subway gets most of my discretionary dineout dollars. You can keep Mickey D's. I'd rather hit the local Indian restaurant for a curry or find an out-of-the-way spot that has 'home cooking'. But KFC is still the place to go if you need to feed three or four people in a hurry, and probably get something everybody likes.

When I moved to Rock Island, the local KFC wasn't much. The place was filthy, the staff were slow, and the food mediocre. Sometime in the last couple of years, either Corporate had some directive to get the franchises cleaned up and on the bounce, or this particular place got a new manager, because the place is spiffed up, the kitchen area is clean, they got rid of some of the people with neck tattoos, and the chicken is pretty fair now. Kudos to the manager for making it happen, and to the staff for doing it up right. Fast-food jobs ain't great, but it doesn't hurt to take pride in your work.

I never knew or met anyone who worked at a KFC (odd, since we had one in town) until I met our NatV, and we probably have heard of her incident with the deep fryer. Lucky her, to have a hand that works after that. I reckon that fried chicken from anywhere would be off-putting to me if I'd had that experience.

At any rate, Happy 70th to KFC! Thanks for all the years of spicy, grease-laden, possibly-life-shortening, chickeny goodness!

And to NatV: if you stop by to read this and have stories about someone on the late shift rolling a mouse in the coating mix and frying it up, or stirring the coleslaw with his male appendage, or someone spitting in the gravy, do me a favor. Consider it a trade secret and just don't tell me about it. Ignorance, in this particular case, would be bliss.

yankeedog out.


  1. There's something wrong with New Zealand KFC. It's absolute crap. And seems to carry diseases. The KFC bacon and cheese Zinger fillet burger and chips was THE way to do hangover recovery during my postgrad years - largely because we'd likely have already slept in too late for Maccas breakfast, which offered the alternative bacon 'n' cheese ('n' egg) 'n' lard combination.

  2. Must say I love KFC Hot n Spicy, just grateful for that interstate starting it all.

  3. I must confess I don't enjoy the KFC now as much as I was when I was young.

    "because it isn't as good now as it was back in the day" this has been my experience as well.

    Did they change or did we?

  4. Usually have KFC a couple of times a year, usually when I'm in Darwin for work, seeing as we don't have it my town. Or even traffic lights for that matter ;)
    Its always pot luck - sometimes, genuinely finger-licken-good - other times, you wonder why you bothered.
    May I leave you with a classic N-Zed ad from way back?

  5. Doc-Well, chickens are a walking pile of diseases that can bite you if the birds aren't cleaned and/or prepared properly. The staff does have to be diligent. Sorry to hear that your KFCs aren't great-but they're a long way from Corporate HQ.

    Don't feel too privileged about the disease. We had a McDonalds here last year that a lot of people caught hepatitis from. All because one employee wasn't as clean as they should have been. Oops.

    Bangar-I remember the Hot n' Spicy, but I don't think you can get it here in the States anymore. We get Grilled as an alternative. It's not too bad, but not great either.

    Barnesy-Yes to both. KFC, like most places, isn't what it was when we were younger. The flavors aren't quite the same. And our palates have gotten more sophisticated over the years. That drive-in burger that was awesome when you were a kid is just a greasy, indigestion-causing gut bomb in our middle age. (Though I still appreciate a decent hamburger, I'll make it myself now).

    Drej-The consistency that fast-food companies strove for years ago is a thing of the past, probably due to looser control of the franchises and apathy from the managers and employees. Kind of why I like a good 'Ma and Pa' owned place.

    That 'Hugo' commercial is way cool! Looks like those kids have been indulging for a while. A silly, catchy jingle and advert from a simpler time.

  6. I missed this one! Be back in the morning Yankee :-D

  7. Hot and Spicy rotates in and out of the KFC menu to create interest, they figure they make more coin that way. NZ for some reason has the highest rates of fresh chicken related food poisoning in the industrialised world. One academic from my old uni's Wellington campus (heavy with public health researchers) called for fresh chicken sales to be banned in NZ. Not terribly likely given the multimillion dollar industry that would be thus torpedoed just because people can't cook the stuff thoroughly.

  8. Nat-Remember, no horror stories... :)

    Doc-Maybe educate people that chicken isn't beef and needs to be cooked all the way through?