Sunday, February 24, 2013

Bulletins From BA #10

Bulletins From BA #10
24 febrero 2013

¡Hola! there… Rodger French here.

It’s a landmark occasion in Buenos Aires, as this sábado pasado (past Saturday) heralded the opening of the first KFC franchise in Argentina. That’s right, The Coronel and his "finger lickin' good" poultry have finally set up shop in a country noted (alas, less so every day) for grass-fed beef. Being a son of Kentucky, I naturally had to suss this out for myself. Of course, it didn’t hurt that the franchise owner was offering a 50% Opening Day Discount to members of the American Embassy community.

And yeah, I know; KFC is owned by a nasty megacorp that specializes in purveying crappy, karma-crushing fast food at catastrophic cost to the environment, never mind the health of its customers. But it was not always thus. Before Coronel Harland Sanders sold out and cashed in, Kentucky Fried Chicken was really pretty good. I have especially fond memories of Sunday dinners at the University of Kentucky, when a bunch of we lads would pitch in and buy roughly a quarter ton of “chicken and all the fixins.” And a jar of sweet gherkins for roughage. Yum!

[Prolonged Reminiscence Alert - I met Coronel Sanders once, though “met” might be stretching it a tad. I was in the drum section of the “UK Marching 100” (an idiotically all-male unit at the time) for a parade/pep rally when The Coronel hisself, congenially toasted from an agreeable combination of spirits both school and distilled, tottered over and shook my hand. Which was somewhat awkward, as I was playing cymbals at the time, but it’s the thought, after all. And yes, he was wearing his trademark white suit and looking very dapper indeed.]

So… A.J. and I strolled up Avenida Coronel Díaz to the food court of the Alto Palermo shopping center anticipating, since vacation season is over and all the porteños have returned to BA, a veritable fast food frenzy (frenesí de comida rápida). But thus was not the case. El restaurante opened early to accommodate los gringos; y el servicio was amenable and expeditious. Also worth noting, the joint was muy kid-friendly, tricked out in red and white, and festooned with the latest official slogan: “buenísimo”.

But, possibly you are curious about the actual, you know, chicken.

Truth is, the food was pretty decent - not as good as in the era of my misspent collegiate youth, but certainly no worse than I recall from more recent experience Stateside. To be fair, I’ve eaten at KFC maybe five times since 1968, so my judgment can reasonably be questioned. Overall, however, it is my opinion that the cultural significance of this auspicious event made it well worth the investment of time and money. And 50% discounted karma.

By the way, I am not a dilettante in this matter: I know from fried chicken. I wasn’t raised in the country, but I did spend a lot of time there (Munfordville, KY, to be exact) visiting my grandmother (abuela), who made the finest fried chicken I have ever tasted. Hers was a three-step process:

Step 1: Go out in the backyard, locate a suitable-looking fowl, and lop its head off with an ax. Pluck until ready, and then cut into pieces.

Step 2: Batter the pieces (including the liver and giblets) in egg followed by flour and spices. In KY, that means salt & pepper.

Step 3: Fry to a golden brown hue in an iron skillet, preferably in lard (yep, lard), although Crisco will do in a pinch.

Serve with mashed potatoes, milk gravy, and canned peas. Por favor, save the thighs for me, and don’t forget the gherkins. ¡Delicioso!