I have a friend who has thick white hair and a moustache and goatee to match. Several years ago, he and his wife took a vacation to London. During the trip, they stopped at Kentucky Fried Chicken. They had eaten plenty of the local cuisine, but after a while, you can only take so much fish and chips before you have a hankering for something healthy.
Anyway, the teenager behind the counter took my friend’s order. While the food was being boxed up, Dave decided he’d have a little fun. He motioned to the young man.
“You know who I am, don’t you?”
The employee did not, so my friend slyly tilted his head toward the iconic photo of KFC founder Colonel Sanders on the wall.
Never mind that Harland Sanders had been dead since 1980. The news may not have made it all the way from Louisville to London, and it certainly hadn’t gotten to this impressionable young chap. As my friend later told the story, the teenager’s jaw dropped, and he scurried to the kitchen to bring everyone out to rub shoulders with chicken royalty.
Colonel Sanders left quite a legacy. According to the comedian James Gregory, Sanders is the man who made it socially acceptable for a person to eat an entire bucket of food. Yet in these days of Keto diets, Paleo-mania, lemon detoxes and other faddish ways to take the joy out of your declining years, the 16-piece family meal may be going out of fashion.
You might expect KFC to jump on the bandwagon and introduce more healthy options, but in fact, the Colonel is doubling down. After a test run in 40 markets last fall, KFC released its latest masterpiece nationwide this past Monday. You can now order a chicken and donut sandwich. That’s a fried patty between two hot, glazed donuts.
The sandwich costs $5.49. For the record, this new menu item contains roughly 1,016 calories, slightly more if you add pickles. A $7.99 basket version is also available, with chicken tenders and two donuts, and maybe a side of coleslaw.
A KFC spokesperson also pointed out that “hot donuts can be added to any meal.”
This company has pulled such publicity stunts before. In 2014, teenagers nationwide had the chance to give their prom dates a flower corsage with a fried chicken leg nestled inside. It was brilliant marketing. I’m told that limo drivers all over the country were charging passengers an extra $5 to wipe grease off the car door handles.
Fast forward to 2020 and behold the KFC X Crocs Bucket Clogs. These are leisure shoes in the fast-food chain’s signature red and white, with a full-color picture of fried chicken printed on the uppers. You can also bling up your shoes with a chicken-scented charm, which is sold separately. The ad didn’t say if you could choose original recipe or extra crispy scent.
The slogan: “Make your dreams of wearing a bucket of chicken come true.”
It is difficult to parody this sort of thing. All I can do is point out that the shoes are called clogs to designate the specific style of Crocs, but the connotation of the word is unfortunate.
It is also difficult to picture Harland Sanders in his signature white suit, black string tie and chicken-scented Crocs. But I suppose even a Kentucky colonel must change with the times.
On a classic episode of the ’80s sitcom “Night Court,” Christine marries her fiancé on a whim. Soon afterwards she laments the rash mistake to her co-workers.
“I got married at an Italian restaurant,” she groans. “What could be more idiotic?”
Her sarcastic friend, Dan, can’t resist. “A chicken-and-waffle joint comes to mind.”
This was funny because no one had ever heard of such a thing in those days. Then Gladys Knight opened exactly that kind of restaurant in Atlanta. Now you can go to Big Mama’s Chicken and Waffles in Dallas. IHOP also sells the syrupy combo, and so does KFC.
And don’t forget, “Hot donuts can be added to any meal.”
Last month, I finally got my Touché Turtle push puppet. This month, I can eat chicken, waffles and donuts for dinner. If I ever get a phone call from Luke Skywalker, everything I dreamed of as an 8-year-old will have come true.
Michael Claxton the narrative columnist for The Bison. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.