OK, true confessions. I miss KFC. Desperately.
When I left the family homestead (ran away from home in my mother’s words), just a block and a half away was something called The Rendezvous Drive In. The Rondy was the local franchisee of something called Kentucky Fried Chicken. Not KFC, as we liked things spelt out for us in those days; IBM was International Business Machines and I don’t think I’d ever heard the word acronym.
I could smell that chicken…or was it those “special secret spices” from my new pad. It would lure me like Catherine Deneuve might do with that Chanel behind her knee. Once a week was my limit. Partially because of budget and mostly because I was a pudgy teenager.
A few short years later, the media became infatuated with calorie counts and Harland Sanders was living in a modest little bungalow in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada. I cut my KFC consumption to once every three months and then, when I started to spend time in Mexico, where the nearest KFC was an hour away, I went from hot chicken to cold turkey.
I didn’t give up on mass produced poultry though. I had a new thrill. It didn’t have that crispy batter but it was still nicely spiced. And though I thought their slogan no hay otro mejor was a little over the top, it’s true that there was nothing better within walking distance of my Mexican home.
Somebody obviously assumed that a chicken that’s cut in half and placed on top of a hot fire would be a happy chicken and therefore called it Pollo Feliz. But you’d get dinner for two for less than 100 pesos in those days and you could give the change to the poor stiffs outside who had to dress up in a chicken suit and consider it a career move.
Over time though I had a growing problem…or was that a shrinking problem…I was no longer so feliz with my Pollo Feliz. It went from a chicken to a cornish hen and I was afraid that, if it got any smaller, I might walk in one day and get an egg.
And then one day, about three years ago, I was walking down Ancha de San Antonio and wafting through the air was this intoxicating aroma. Had the colonel pulled his extra long bow tie out of the top drawer? Was he oxycleaning the gravy stains out of his white suit?
No, it was an imposter. A civilian not a military guy. I was not falling off the wagon for a Mr. Crunchy Chicken.
But I walk down the Ancha a lot and that smell continued to try and lead me astray. It was like Chanel behind both of Catherine’s knees. And unlike Americans who, if you watch sitcoms, cook fried chicken every other day, Canadians never pressure fry, don’t even deep fry chicken. Ever.
So today, I grovelled. Don Day’s Wife was lunching with the ladies and I suggested that, due to her busy itinerary and the possibility that white wine might be necessary to suitably digest her curry, perhaps she would need to relax and we should order in for dinner. And, by the way, I said, did you know that Mr. Crunchy Chicken has a Wednesday special just like Pollo Feliz. An extra half chicken, gratis.
Don Day’s Wife likes bargains. “Let’s do it”, she said as I checked for wax in my ears. Besides, she said, somebody told me, “they ordered the chicken and nobody died”.
I don’t speak Spanish but I’m pretty good at faking it. The person who answers the phone at Mr. Crunchy Chicken doesn’t speak English and also attempts to break the speed of sound when they speak Spanish. If you’re like me, there are certain words you always bumble. Delivery is one of them. Did I say entraga or llegar? Would it arrive at the door or would my chicken spend the rest of its life sitting on an arborite counter?
About 25 minutes later there was a rattatattat on the door. And we live high up on the hill, at least 15 minutes away from where Mr. Crunchy lives. That was roadrunner not chicken speed, I thought, as the smell walked in the door before I had a chance to invite in the crash-helmeted delivery guy and search for the 170 pesos I owed him.
“Just like KFC”, said Don Day’s Wife as she took a deep sniff, “if only it tastes like it smells.”
Inside the crispy white carrier bag, graphically designed as professionally as any major chain (I think MCC…they’re going to use the acronym sooner or later…only has two locations) there was a heavy duty box (about halfway between a bucket and a barrel to use the colonel’s lingo), a foam coffee cup of cole slaw (two more English words I struggled with when ordering), a bag of red sauce and what Don Day’s Wife called an “emaciated” bread roll. I liked that Mr. Crunchy Chicken realizes people who live in houses own real metal flatware and don’t need plastic replicas.
Inside the box was more of that intoxicating smell, twelve generous sized pieces of battered chicken and a not so generous amount of potato wedges.
Don Day’s Wife looked inside and said, “A single guy could live on this much chicken for a week.” I said, “Or he could invite three or four single women over for just one night.” She didn’t laugh.
We put three pieces of chicken on each plate (both avoiding our least favorite, the breasts), along with half of the potato wedges and cole slaw. The potatoes had a good crisp. The cole slaw had lots of lemony mayo which was fine. I took a bite of thigh and looked at her. She took a bite of leg and looked at me.
“Moist”, she said, “super juicy”.
“Tasty”, I said, “very nicely spiced, perhaps even nicer than the colonel’s.”
“Nicer than the colonel’s”. Did those words come from the greasy lips I was now licking? They did. This was about as good a fried chicken as I’d had. Years I had spent fasting. And for most of those years it had nothing do with that batter being fattening.
Whatever I had been missing I knew I wouldn’t be missing much longer. There were still six pieces for the next day’s lunch. And thanks to the creativity of Don Day’s Wife, they became a curried chicken and apple salad complete with those extra crunchy bits.
Soon it will be next Wednesday. I already know how to say una orden adicional de papas. It’s entrega not llegar for delivery isn’t it? And cole slaw in Spanish? You can bet I’ll know it by then.
Mr. Crunchy Chicken is located at Ancha de San Antonio 47 in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. For delivery, telephone 152 6019.