Thursday, May 8, 2014

Exotic/Disgusting Foods and Beverages Forum--The Double Down "Sandwich" from KFC

     The other day I decided to try KFC’s infamous Double Down “Sandwich.”  I’ve included quotation marks, because this food item does not use any bread.  Instead, the bacon and cheese are held together by more meat—two pieces of fried chicken, in patty form.  You read that right—it’s meat filling between more meat.  It’s like the KFC board of directors all got drunk at a meeting and said, “Okay, our restaurant is synonymous with obesity, but how can we up the ante?  Let’s put out something that makes vegetarians and cardiologists literally choke to death on their own bile!”  It was test marketed on April Fools Day, 2010, but has continued, intermittently, up until the present day.  So if it’s a joke, KFC is showing admirable, stubborn, commitment to a bit.
     The Double Down is surely a candidate for the “disgusting” qualification of my blog, but definitely not one for the “exotic” part.  I was surprised to learn that KFC is an even bigger monster than I thought.  It has over 18,000 outlets in 118 countries or territories.  With a few rare exceptions, unless you’re reading this in a northern or central African country, there’s a KFC within your home land.  I didn’t know if there was a KFC nearby my current hotel.  When I checked, it was about a half mile away.  Incidentally, since I’m old I still think of it as Kentucky Fried Chicken, even though it’s been KFC since 1991.  This was changed not for brevity’s sake, or because marketing thought that kids consider initial abbreviations cool, but to avoid the word “fried,” with its negative health connotations.  Because by changing it to an “F” people would get collective amnesia and think it was a health food restaurant, apparently.
     KFC (nee Kentucky Fried Chicken) was, of course, started by the Colonel himself, Harland Sanders.  And although he wasn’t a real military colonel, he didn’t just make this up for himself.  The state of Kentucky grants this highest of honorific titles to its most prominent, valuable citizens.  Which, when you think about it, is kind of weird.  If it’s unofficial, why is “Colonel” the highest?  Why not “General?”  Or “Admiral?”  Or “Prime Minister?”  By a strange coincidence, Colonel Sanders’ grave is the only famous person’s grave I’ve visited, aside from U.S. Presidents buried on their own estates.  I was visiting a friend in Louisville, KY years ago (Hi Jane), and we decided to check out the cemetery he’s buried in.
     To digress one final time (probably), I looked up more information on John Montagu.  I recalled that “sandwich” is said to be named after this 4th Earl of Sandwich the supposed inventor of it, but I didn’t remember much else.  Montagu (1718-1792) led an eventful life.  He was an ambassador, the Postmaster General, the Secretary of State for the Northern Department, and First Lord of the Admiralty.  Alas for him, he evidently wasn’t well respected, nonetheless.  It was said of him, “Seldom has a man held so many offices and accomplished so little.”  His actions as First Lord of the Admiralty during the United State’s Revolutionary War were considered incompetent, and which allegedly helped my country’s bid for independence quite a bit.  So thanks, I guess.  To be fair, some historians maintain his terrible reputation is exaggerated, and due to the accounts of his political enemies.  Even the sandwich story is disputed.  Some say he asked for cold meat between two slices of bread to serve as a quick, one handed, neat meal while he was gambling, while his proponents say he asked for this culinary creation while busy at his work, working.  In the interest of accuracy, some historians (evidently those who specialize in how relatively trivial things got their names) credit the famous Jewish leader Hillel the Elder (110 B.C.—7 A.D.) with inventing the sandwich, while others say it was developed by the poor in Europe during the Middle Ages.  And there are other versions, too.  But rightly or wrongly, John Montagu, or rather his nobility region, gets the credit.
     Anyway, back to the food itself.  The Double Down is bacon and two kinds of melted cheese, with a special sauce, between two pieces of fried chicken fillets.  As you can guess, it looks, and is, pretty ridiculous.  Granted, the Bacon Explosion (see March 6th, 2014 post) is absurd on a grander scale, but that one requires a lot of preparation, while the Double Down is available in about a minute at a drive through lane at a fast food restaurant.  And I enjoyed it.  Not a big stretch, since I adore cheese, love bacon, and generally like fried chicken.  But still, I will admit to a faint shame about this.  I was sort of hoping that I’d find it revolting, so I could avoid being a hypocrite while I mocked it.  But it was tasty, so my conscience hurt a tad, while my palate and belly were satisfied.
     Funny thing, though—it’s not as unhealthy as it would seem.  It has 610 calories and 37 grams of fat (or 460 and 23, respectively, if you get grilled chicken “bread” instead of fried).  This isn’t great, of course, for one quasi sandwich, but it’s roughly akin to or even better than other fast food offerings.  For comparison, a McDonald’s Big Mac has 540 calories and 29 grams of fat.  And their Premium Crispy Chicken Club Sandwich has 620 calories and 29 grams of fat.  Burger King’s Whopper has 670 calories and 40 grams of fat.  But their Tendercrisp Chicken Sandwich has 750 calories and 45 grams of fat!  Wendy’s Baconator Single clocks in at 680 calories and 40 grams of fat.  So, I certainly wouldn’t advise making the Double Down a daily part of your diet, but every so often it’s probably not too egregious.  And it tastes good—I’ll probably have one again.  But if you do want to try it, you’d better hurry—in the U.S. it’s listed as only being available until May 25th (and should resume again next spring).  Many other countries have a version of it, but of course their times of availability may vary considerably.    

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