Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Noted Mostly Without Comment

That's KFC's new chicken sandwich, if you can call it that. Because you know what sucks about buns? It's that they don't cover your fingers with a film of chicken grease.

Not to make sweeping generalizations, but . . . I kind of want to blame society in general for this.


Blogger Don said...

I think everything I have to say about this has been said better here by Merlin Mann: http://www.kungfugrippe.com/post/528493449/brown-thing

4/20/2010 11:25 PM  
Blogger nate said...

Mann's take seems about right to me. Also, Patton Oswalt's standup bit about the Famous Bowl from a few years ago is still germane to any discussion of KFC's approach to its food offerings.

Matthew Yglesias notes that the sandwich has fewer calories than a salad and a slice of bread from Cosi, and makes a modest pitch for restaurant nutritional labeling. He does note that calories aren't everything -- besides his "some kind of vitamins" I would note the item's almost perverse lack of dietary fiber, which among other things would make the eater feel more full and be less likely, as Mann puts it, to "buy five at a time and eat alone in your Pinto while listening to talk radio and crying". At least less likely to buy five.

I think it's clean good fun to dump all over this kind of alleged sandwich but we're playing the product's game too. I'm sure that it's been soundly market-tested and that people will buy it and eat it but I wonder if a big part of its function is to be a kind of peacock's tail of fast food excess -- Even if you don't want to eat it, it pegs KFC as the sort of place you can go and eat what you want without having some complex about being healthy. People from all quarters ragging on it as a nutritional disaster serves to endorse its excess, at least if you're not paying close attention. Judging from commercials over the past couple of years I think Burger King's the other big franchise that's been Doubling Down on perverse unhealthiness too, and not coincidentally pitching their shit to a young male clientele.

Or maybe it's just the case that consumers are more willing to eat an object alienated from earlier ideas of presentation, balance, or seeming relatedness to pre-industrial foodways than they were previously, or were previously known to be.

4/21/2010 11:25 AM  
Blogger Don said...

Agreed - whether he meant to imply it or not, I took Mann's quip about the "raging food boner" to refer to this growing pervasive idea of grossly unhealthy food as an aspirational goal. The interwebs are full of bacon used in ways that God and pigs never intended, and there seems to be a shift away from "bacon is a tasty food which I'd like to eat more of" to "what's the most decadently overconsumptive food-as-performance-art I can create".

Food, unless it is a decorated cake, is not at its best when in service of irony.

I was talking yesterday with someone who claimed that they HAD to try the Double Down, not because they thought it would be good, but because it was there, like some sort of deep-fried Everest. I myself have succumbed to this reasoning many times, including one notable afternoon at the Minnesota State Fair. But I think the ability of Burger King and KFC and their ilk to churn out new culinary Matterhorns exceeds any one person's ability to survive them in the long run, and there's a point where you have to perhaps rest on the laurels of that deep fried Snickers bar you had that one time.

As for the nutritional stuff, I'll defer once again to Michael Pollan - fried chicken, bacon, cheese, and some sort of corn-syrup and oil sauce isn't healthy food, regardless of how many calories it might have.

4/21/2010 12:01 PM  

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