Illustration by Andrew Abbott
Ché’s Take: American Fat, American Meat, The American Spirit
“KFC Double Down ‘Sandwich'” by Mike Saechang. It uses the Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic Creative Commons License. “Victory Gardeners” from the Library of Congress database.
The problem is not the Double Down. The sandwich was a personal problem for me on Sunday, when we ate the things. Even when Andrew and I went to Café Polonia, which serves lard as its butter and probably used the same to fry my potato pancakes, I didn’t feel as awful about myself and the world as I did after eating this sandwich. But the Double Down itself is not the problem. Nobody will live on a diet of Double Downs, in fact, because the Sandwich itself is not actually all that tasty, it will probably die a slow death, following in the footsteps of the Hula Burger. No, the Double Down is not the problem. America’s fascination with fat, especially meat fat, is the problem. Luckily, this is a problem that can be solved.
When food critics write about the Double Down, they live up to their prissy reps. Take for example this blog post by Mark Morford. He rips on the executives of KFC, saying:
“Hell, even the oil titans right now raping Canada can claim to be supplying a commodity that runs the engines of the world. Even Wall Street ogres can claim to be partaking of a time-honored tradition of gutting the U.S. Treasury at the expense of the ignorant masses. But head of marketing for, say, Kentucky Fried Chicken? Oh, you poor soul. Hell hath a special room for you.”
Really now? There are two problems here, first of all assuming that the three have nothing to do with each other, and secondly, the Double Down is any worse for you than the rest of fast food. Many of the news stories point out that the Double Down actually has fewer calories than the McDonald’s Premium Crispy Chicken Club Sandwich. The lie of chicken as healthier comes into complete focus when something can compete with the Double Down as a less healthy option, especially another chicken sandwich.
Americans have always been obsessed with meat because it has always been so prevalent here when compared to the rest of the world. A month ago, I cited Hasia Diner’s discussion of what it means to eat meat daily. Diner and Werner Sombart, who Diner discusses, saw this as one of the crucial differences between America and Europe. Jeremy Rifkin in his book Beyond Beef: The Rise and Fall of the Cattle Culture, explains how American beef specifically moved from an almost feral American Longhorn to the fatted, grain fed, British influenced marbled beef that we have today. Uncle Sam gives this beef his stamp of approval. Rifkin describes how the USDA created its grading system based on beef’s “fat content and started with the assumption that fatty beef was of higher value and preferred by consumers over leaner cuts of beef.” America loves fat, and as humans, we biologically love fat as well. Still, the fattiness of our beef, and now our chicken is a relatively recent development, and has less to do with a protein-heavy diet than a fat-heavy diet.
In the end, this love of all things fatty isn’t even American in origin, as I mentioned above. In Rifkin’s book, he has an entire chapter called “Corpulent Cows and Opulent Englishmen.” In this chapter, Rifkin describes how the British grew to love fatty beef, a love which they exported by buying up much of the American range to raise their obese cows. An American preference for marbled beef soon followed.
The food critics who deride the Double Down as too “American” and the Tea Partyers who hope to return to a nostalgic (also racist and jingoist) vision of the American past are really two sides of the same coin. Both make an arrogant claim to describe what America is, and always has been, based on a strange kind of nostalgia or anti-nostalgia. The Tea Partyers, if they truly lived up to their name, would move from Red Coats to red meat, and fight against a British culinary choice that is now killing millions of Americans. The boogie liberals who write against the Double Down and hate it for being too American take a very narrow view of what America is, and give the whole of American history up to the right wing and the politics of free consumption. To say that this or that is American because it is conservative denies that Samuel Adams, Thomas Paine, Tecumseh, Frederick Douglas, Crazy Horse, Joaquin Murieta, Eugene Debs, Mother Jones, Martin Luther King, Fred Hampton, Caesar Chavez etc. are not only part of American history and identity but crucial to it. One thing that all of America seems to agree is that what is crucial to our culture is self-sufficiency. Diabetes, obesity, and agra-business are some of the largest enemies of self-sufficiency today, and they are all intertwined in a net of governmental and corporate complacency and profit. Grass roots movements, from the community gardens movement in Detroit to the Re-Vision Urban Farm right here in Boston do just that, and with a little support, these models could be used throughout the United States, like Victory Gardens during World War II. To reiterate, the Double Down is not the problem. The entire food industry and its governmental sponsors are the problem. Fighting against it, and for healthier and self-sufficient eating and livelihoods is not un-American, but comes from the truest patriotism in the American spirit.
Katrina & Andrew’s Take:
Photos by Katrina Thorne
I’m going to preface this entry with the fact that me and this particular KFC have some personal history. One time when I was really jonesing for a chicken pot pie after a long day of work I placed my order with the nice lady behind the counter and decided to use the restroom in the mean time while waiting. I went in back and knocked on the door. I knocked again just in case. There was no answer and when I checked the knob it wasn’t locked so I went right in. What did I find? One of the gentlemen who worked trying to pee into the toilet from all the way across the room. Needless to say now but I’m already nervous at this KFC even when I’m not about to devour a double down.
As gastronaut adventures go this wasn’t the most far out food we’ve encountered. Our team included a few new recruits and we made the trek out to that wonderful land of chicken, that little bit of Kentucky away from Kentucky, KFC. There we purchased the new “double down sandwiches.” For those not in the know this “sandwich” is two pieces of chicken with two pieces of bacon, two pieces of cheese, and some sort of sauce slathered in between. This sammich isn’t going to double down anything but it will double up your cholesterol.
Amongst the members there was discussion about how this could be considered a sandwich. It’s marketed as not needing any bread but can it still be called a sandwich? I guess that technically the chicken included in this disaster is breaded but I call shenanigans and I’m sure John Montagu the 4th Earl of Sandwich would also. In fact you can consider me the Earl of Shenanigans when it comes to the Double Down.This thing also comes in a convenient little sleave in case you were wondering how you eat it without making a mess. But before you finish eating, the sleave is soaked with grease and is pretty much rendered useless.
The sandwich may seem small upon first glance but it is extremely dense. It even feels heavy when you’re lugging it around in that little brown paper bag. And once its in your stomach it sits there like a rock. Like some sort of deep fried dark matter from down south. Some members felt extremely sluggish after consuming the chicken while others complained about stomach and general body aches. Extreme motion after eating this is not recommended. Although you may feel like you need to take a nap after eating it that would probably be the worst thing you could do.
This may in fact be the antithesis of the “naked” burgers that are wrapped in lettuce instead of using a bun or any of those other new fangled healthy options popping up in resturants all over. While all these other restaurants are trying to save us KFC just might be sneakily dooming us. The convenience of fast food is too strong for the masses. Even when some of these places advertise “fresh” options you still know it’s most likely going to be waiting for you under a heating lamp. The Double Down is a conundrum in itself in that you could easily make it yourself, but you don’t want to because then that just makes you feel like the evil one rather than Colonel Sanders.
This isn’t the first mess in the long line of fast food trying to top everything. McDonalds had the Super Hero burger that combined three burgers into one sandwich. One burger is enough to handle let alone three. And Burger King has put the Quadstacker into rotation which is four layers of patty, cheese, and bacon. These weren’t the first nor will they be the last in the long line of ridiculous fast food items that soon may be incorporated into some people’s normal diets.
One last thing before we close. Instead of Agra-business and KFC, in a couple of weekends you can support immigrant rights and independent restaurants. The Welcome Project, a Somerville based immigrant advocacy group, is hosting a fundraiser featuring local Somerville restaurants and entertainment. Find out more information here.
When?: April 30th, 6:00-10:00 PM
Where?: Somerville Armory
How much?: $40, more to sponsor