I love to cook. My mother was pretty good in the kitchen, and as a kid I watched her and learned. I’ve done all of the cooking in my house for decades now, and in all due modesty, I’m not bad at it. I’ve got good knife skills, I know the difference between broil and braise, and I can usually pull off the most difficult aspect of cooking…having dishes that are to be served together ready at the same time. Nobody wants those Brussels Sprouts for dessert. But what I’m most interested in is what most good cooks simply call “product”, those wonderful ingredients that somehow come together to form a meal. I know my meat (please insert joke here), and I can tell you the subtle differences among at least ten varieties of apples. I keep more than a gallon of homemade chicken stock in the freezer at all times. I have actually made my own pomegranate reductions, and I have a favorite brand of balsamic vinegar. We grow our own baby salad greens, herbs, and some heirloom vegetables. I know that some recipes need “Red Bliss” potatoes, while others require “Yukon Gold.” I’ve recently begun using agave nectar as a sweetener, and I’ll purchase almost any kind of unusual mushroom. I guess that means that I’m officially a “Foodie.” But like many if not most foodies, I’ve got some guilty pleasures…foods that are so bad and so bad for you that they seem to contradict everything that you know about cooking and eating.
Some guilty pleasures are legendary. Twinkies, those little cakes that will outlast civilization as we know it. Snowballs, faux cream-injected, marshmallow frosted, coconut-topped chocolate “cakes.” Big Macs, with their “special” sauce. None of these interest me in the least. My guilty pleasure…Kentucky Fried Chicken. I prefer the “original” recipe. In the “extra crispy” you can’t find the chicken in all the breading, and in the “honey barbecue” you can find the chicken…you just can’t taste it. But the “original”…it’s mostly actual chicken, and it tastes good. It also gives you about a ten year supply of grease. This is far from healthy food, so I don’t have it very often. Not long ago the company tried to re-brand itself, and rid itself of its junk food image by trying to convince the world that KFC stood for “Kitchen Fresh Chicken.” What Nimrod green-lighted that idea? It worked about as well as you might have expected. It’s “Kentucky Fried Chicken.” It will always be “Kentucky Fried Chicken.” Get over it.
So there I was yesterday, at KFC, and hungry. This is not a good place to be when you are hungry. My wife was with me. Like so much else that we have in common, my wife feels as I do about KFC, although I do not share her other guilty pleasures. She loves Little Debbie Swiss Cake Rolls, chilled in the refrigerator to near-freezing. She is addicted to Jif Peanut Butter, creamy only, spread on most anything except on Little Debbie Swiss Cake Rolls, although I’m convinced that it’s only a matter of time before she discovers that combination. So we ordered a bucket of “original” Kentucky Fried Chicken, along with some potato wedges and some buttermilk biscuits. And we asked for ketchup to go with the potatoes, and honey to put on the biscuits. I’ve lived in the South for most of my life, and when you are eating fried chicken, you put honey on your biscuits. That’s just how it is. When we order a bucket of chicken, we always discuss when we’re going to eat the leftovers. This is as useful as discussing the number of angels that can dance on the head of a pin. There are never any angels, and there is never any leftover chicken.
So we got our food, and sat down to enjoy our meal. The biscuits had just come from the oven, and they were still piping hot. The honey comes in little plastic packets that cannot be opened by anyone who is not a member of the World Wrestling Federation. They are even more difficult to open when your hands are coated with a thick layer of hot chicken grease. So as I struggled to open my honey packet, I noticed something. The packet no longer said “honey”…it said “honey sauce.” Now I’ve heard of “honey barbecue sauce” and I make a mean “honey-mustard sauce.” But what in the name of Julia Child is “honey sauce?” The substance in the packets looked like honey, but what was it really? So I read the ingredients. There is still a tiny amount of honey in the “honey sauce”…eleven percent. The rest is corn sweeteners, coloring, and flavoring. So as if this food isn’t bad enough for you, you don’t even get real honey anymore. The “honey sauce” had no taste of honey (cue Herb Alpert, for all you old folks out there) whatsoever…all it was, was sweet. Now…listen closely…that sound you hear is “The Colonel” spinning in his grave. And I took this as further evidence of the decline of western culture. When the honey for your biscuits is no longer real honey, then the terrorists win.
There was no chicken left over.
So after we ate, I stopped in to my local supermarket to stock up for the holiday weekend. I thought that it might be nice to have a little ice cream, so I was looking in the freezer case, when I saw, for the first time, several different types of ice cream specifically for…wait for it…DOGS. Yes, there are now several brands of ice cream manufactured expressly for your dog. And the packages state that these products have no artificial colors or flavors. Some even claim that they are “all natural.” I guess that a lot of folks, seeing the cute, colorful packaging and noticing how healthy these products claim to be, unknowingly bought them to serve to the family, not realizing that they were…ahem…PET FOOD. I came to this conclusion because directly above the shelf with the Doggie Ice Cream was a fairly crude hand-lettered sign, with large bright red letters that read “FOR PETS.” Imagine Mom’s surprise, after little Susie said that tonight’s new dessert tasted “Yucky” and Mom took a closer look at the box! So now, the treats that you purchase for your dog (who also considers sniffing the butts of other dogs to be a treat) are more healthy and more “real” then the “honey” for your biscuits. Situations like this is why, many months ago, I named my blog “Go Figure.”
I need to stop eating anywhere but at home, and I need to stop eating anything that I don’t cook myself. I need to avoid eating ice cream unless I can have a look at the packaging first. And if I ever go to KFC again, I need to bring my own damn honey.