My relationship with KFC runs hot, passionate, and grease slicked.
It was our once-a-month treat dinner growing up, particularly after a tough exam or strenuous swim practice. I’d request Original Recipe thighs and wings, my ideal combination of dark-meat chicken and crispy skin.
My palate for fried chicken has matured over the years—I’ve had chef-y interpretations brined with buttermilk and fried with cornmeal in leaf lard—but that very specific flavor of KFC is forever planted in my subconscious. It’s a peppery, savory batter, with indiscernible herbs and a good hit of salt. There’s no audible crunch when you bite in, but a distinct crispy-squishiness. I can eat $30 artisanal fried chicken once a week forever and it won’t compare to the nostalgic joys of KFC.
For years, attempts to decode Colonel Harland Sanders’s 11 secret herbs and spices have become sport. KFC has used this to its marketing advantage, including sending an armored truck to the vault where the handwritten recipe was purportedly kept (with TV cameras conveniently present).