I was alerted to an alarming factoid a few days ago by my husband, Mark.
“Read this,” he said, presenting me with a link to a Time magazine article. “You will find it interesting.” I did. And my head almost exploded. The article noted that the majority of Americans ages 18 to 25 did not know that Col. Harland Sanders was an actual human being.
This cannot be. The icon of American fried chicken? The reason we all crave those eleven secret herbs and spices? Not real? I call Noah. I am sure that as an educated young person well versed in food knowledge that he will prove to me that his generation has not let Col. Sanders fall by the wayside.
“So, Noah, I have a question for you,” I say confidently. “Do you know who Col. Sanders is?”
Dead silence. “Who’s that?” he replies warily. “Kentucky Fried Chicken,” I counter. More silence. “I have no idea what he did or why,” says my beloved son. I explain to him about the Time magazine article. “Nobody loves you,” he sums up, ready to be done with his daft mother who’s calling him out on Col. Sanders.
I am now feeling my age because I well remember as a high school student in Tampa having the actual Col. Sanders visit Plant High School during a pep rally. I distinctly remember him taking the stage in his white suit with his cane. We were thrilled that he had come to visit because every kid in the bleachers had been raised on Kentucky Fried Chicken.
We all knew the story about how the Colonel had been pretty much a failure his entire life until he came up with the best fried chicken recipe ever in the history of the world. He had to shlep around to restaurants all over the South, convincing the owners to just try his chicken. He slept in his car. I did not think there was anyone alive today who did not know that the picture of the nice man on every Kentucky Fried Chicken logo had actually walked this earth.
I am now slightly worried that this up and coming generation will get other food facts wrong. Will they know that Julia Child was real and not just a character Dan Aykroyd made up on Saturday Night Live?Do they realize that the picture of the jovial chef on the cans of Chef Boyardee spaghetti (which actually is rather noxious) is of the real founder of the company, Italian-American immigrant Ettore Boiardi? And what about the opposite? Do they think if they call up General Foods and ask for Betty Crocker that she’ll actually come to the phone?
I have to remember that this generation has a short attention span where history is concerned. They know nothing of mimeograph machines, phones that had cords attached to them and cars without seat belts. And I guess our parents could have said the same about us.
But it just seems so wrong that Col. Sanders has been put in the same box with Barney, the Powder Puff Girls and Pokemon. If he’s considered at all.
So here is my ode to Col. Harland Sanders. He changed my life. His chicken changed my life. I had never eaten really good fried chicken until I went to Kentucky Fried. The fact that his company now wants to be known as just KFC and is owned by the same conglomerate that owns Taco Bell and Pizza Hut saddens me.
When I go to Kentucky Fried Chicken, I order only the original recipe. Extra crispy and grilled do not exist in my universe. Col. Sanders was the real deal. A real man. A man who knew his chicken.