I tried the KFC Double Down when it debuted on the fetid, garbage strewn vaudeville stage of the fast food theater. This happened for two reasons. Firstly I wanted to experience this new “fuck you” to the obesity epidemic first hand and secondly because Pancha dared me to.
Now it’s not the first time I’ve taken a dare issued by this woman. Back when I showed her Patton Oswald’s stand up bit where he refered to the KFC famous bowl, a bucket piled with mashed potatoes, cheese, corn, fried chicken and of course, GRAVY, as a “Failure pile in a sadness bowl” Her immediate response was:
“So you are going to eat one, right?”
And I did. On our annual road trip to the Portland Stumptown Comic Fest we stopped at a KFC and I stepped up to the counter and ordered up a sadness bowl. Then I ate. the. entire. thing.
I’m sure the photographic evidence is still somewhere on Pancha’s Flickr.
It sat like a chunk of liquid gravy cement in my stomach but really it didn’t taste that bad. It was an edible if not artery hardening meal. So when Pancha called me to, If memory serves, specifically tell me that the Double Down was about to be birthed from some eldrich segment of the fast food marketing world I wasn’t taking it very seriously.
“Oh my god.” Pancha gushed. “Did you hear about the thing KFC is coming out with??”
“It’s called the DOUBLE DOWN.” The way she said it I could hear the capital letters pronounced.
“What the balls is that? It sounds like a sex act.”
She was growing progressively more excited on the other end of the phone the way only a vegetarian can sound when she’s about to ask you to do something meat based and foolish.
“It’s two pieces of fried chicken, bacon, jack cheese and Colonel special sauce.
“So, what? The bread is…”
“No. You don’t understand.” Pancha spoke slowly and clearly. “There is no bread. The fried chicken chunks function as the bread.”
My only response was:
“Hell, I’d eat that.”
Because why not? Bread is only the pretense of respectability on a sandwich. It’s a burka on a whore. It’s there to shroud the dirty innards from sight and lend it a daintyness to all of that wonton meat and cheese and mayo. At the time I saluted KFC for giving the American people what we wanted. The truth. We don’t eat sandwiches to feel good. We eat them for that exhilarating numbness in our left arm.
Pancha set the date. She organized a field trip around the Double Down. It was to be myself, her, a boy she was seeing and his two roommates. She drove me into the Inner Richmond district and the appointed KFC of that fated lunch. Four of us stepped to the formica counter that day to do our duty to American gluttony -the fifth opting for an order of potato wedges because she can’t digest meat or whatever.
Sure, we knew what we were ordering. We knew intestinal distress was most likely going to follow and we accepted that we were making a choice out of our own intrepid free will.
What I didn’t expect was how I was going to feel about the Double Down personally.
The kind employees at this particular KFC made our Double Downs fresh just for us. Perhaps they recognized that we were the champagne bottle against the bow of this newly inaugurated fatty ship and wanted to salute our derring do , perhaps it was an attempt at shamefaced pity for us argonauts of food. Either way out the Double Downs came out piping hot and greasy onto our plastic trays.
I ate the first few bites with relish. So greasy! So hot! So crispy! Every thing I could want from fast food! How wonderful! Even better than the sadness bowl!
But after the initial excitement the bloom came off the rose. I felt suddenly feverish, in the grip of the dreaded meat sweats and only a fourth of the way through. I paused.
“What do you think?” Asked Pancha, nibbling on her fucking potato wedge.
“It’s…It’s…” I swallowed my rising gorge and took another bite. A thick, viscous grease ran down my hand, past my wrist and into the sleeve of my jacket. “It’s okay…I guess.”
Everyone else who had ordered this seemed to be doing better than me. Roommate #1 declared it: “Pretty good” and roommate #2 stated that it was “actually pretty tasty” and the boy Pancha was seeing simply polished it off and licked his lips there after. I took several more bites and then sat looking down at the lump of reconstituted fried bullshit in my hand and thought about how the jack cheese had a sort of melted Saran wrap after taste.
Pancha fixed me with a focused look over her potato wedge as the grease cooled and solidified on the bones of my wrist like Colonel Sanders petulant spooge.
Time stopped as I raised the Double Down to my mouth. looking down at the wad of bacon/chicken/cheese/sauce in my chubby fist I was struck with a moment of crystal clarity.
“This is why they hate us.” I thought morosely. “This is why every other country on the planet thinks we are shitty. Somewhere in a cave in Afghanistan a Jihadist holds aloft a photo of this abomination and urges an end to such hubris. Somewhere in France an intellectual is drinking pino noir and bemusedly contemplating America as the new Roman empire…”
In that moment of frozen time and mordant thinking I didn’t want to be sitting at a run down table in a San Francisco KFC with my best friend or think about my comfortable American life. All I wanted to do was to go home, take a shower and be alone.
Yet as alone and ashamed as I felt in that moment, as horrified and embarrassed as this wholely American food product had made me… nothing, and I mean nothing was as bad as the bowel movement I would have four hours later….