My life is like KFC’s Two Piece Feed without the potato and gravy— functional, but ultimately unsatisfying and without all the saucy bits. When not talking about the intricacies of his cat’s bowel movements, my father likes to inform me that these, my mid-twenties, are the best years of my life. I’d be loathe to describe myself as a “glass-half-empty” kind of person but, to be totally honest, if these are, indeed, the best years of my life, they involve much more boy pining and Facebook stalking than I am entirely comfortable with.
To sculpt the kind of body that I felt would best lure any future mining magnate boyfriend (aim high, I say), I spent the better part of last year subsisting on a diet of those yoghurts that profess to taste like dessert. Now, I’m no Heston Blumenthal, but I’ve gotta say that anything called ‘Berry Cheesecake’ which does not include either cheese or cake is really just a tub of vaguely sweetened paste. I lost weight, but I also lost a healthy appreciation for the majesty that is Macca’s french fries dipped liberally into a large chocolate sundae.
This year, though, amidst the romantic tragedy of boys that just wanted to “be friends” (read: talk about the plot intricacies of Game of Thrones occasionally) and dates in which I fell down entire flights of stairs and broke numerous toes in the process, I turned back to calories in my seemingly endless hours of need. Skinniness, I decided, was best reserved for those with a vested interest in their cardiac health, and my heart had been broken so many times over a six month period that no amount of kale and quinoa was going to fix it. Anyway, who needs one boyfriend when you can have two: Ben and Jerry?
Yesterday afternoon, consuming journalistic puff pieces in an attempt to come up with something anything, to fill up my daily article quota, I discovered that KFC, that haven of fine, fried cuisine had rereleased its legendary Double Down for two days only. A nutritionist’s nightmare, the gastronomic delight in question features two fried chicken fillets sandwiching bacon and a slice of cheese, all bonded together with lashings of barbecue sauce. I voiced my interest, and an enthusiastic workmate remarked, “I had one last year. It was fucking amazing.” Said colleague didn’t have the culinary lexicon of Matt Preston (nor his cravat, unfortunately), but I was sold.
However, by the time I got home that evening, something had changed in me. My three housemates were out, all presumably being fanned with giant palm leaves by their unclothed partners. To face the Double Down alone, without the buffer of a well-chiselled date, was to concede that my life had been reduced to a fast food farce. There would be no subtle irony to my choice of cuisine, just a greasy, greasy acknowledgement that Colonel Sanders was the only man with whom I could seek succor.
Perhaps it was an inescapable pop-cultural imperative that had me needing desperately to live out that “I gave my love a chicken without a bone” song. Whatever the reason, it seemed tragically sad that I had no semi attractive gentleman to escort me to KFC to experience the illustrious breadless burger.
Still, in a week where those formative bastions of girl power— the Spice Girls— had stood united for the first time in many years, it was time for me to shrug off the chains of heartbreak and do something for myself that wasn’t impeded by the fact that a particular boy didn’t appreciate my verbose brand of slightly neurotic charm. I would chow down on a Double Down, irrespective of the fact that I would have no attractive masculine counterpart to make it seem like a quirky, adorable date directed by Lena Dunham.
It was the day before payday and, having bought a hipster Parisian tycoon’s worth of Carven earlier in the week, I was coming up eighty cents short for my KFC feast. I scraped out the meager offerings from the bottom of the household kitty. We needed toilet paper, but I was happy to use my box of tissues for a bit. I’m sure the Duchess of Cambridge favours four-ply Kleenex over 1000 sheet rolls of Delsey, anyway.
I pulled on a pair of tights. I selected a black pencil skirt and a breton stripe shirt from my wardrobe. I refreshed my heavy flick of eyeliner. Consuming two slabs of battery farmed hen in one go may be counterintuitive to any personal attempts to resemble a Jean-Luc Godard heroine but, by God, if I was going to do it, I was going to do it with all the charm and whimsy of a Nouvelle Vague French film star.
It was raining outside. Not enough to tarnish my suede boots, but just enough to frost my hair with dew that, in my imagination, glittered evocatively in the glow of streetlights. An elderly man with an indistinguishably gruff European accent stopped me to tell me that he liked my thighs. I moved on quickly, thinking, “There’ll be even more of them to love after I consume an entire day’s worth of sodium in one chicken heavy hit.”
Reaching the glossy red and white Arcadia that was my final destination, I exhaled and stepped decisively through the open doors. It was happening. I walked to the counter. Behind it stood a beanpole of a boy, his nametag reading “Romain”, oil gathering luxuriantly on his speckled t-zone. I wondered briefly if I could ever get drunk enough to enjoy a date with him. Then it occurred to me that he probably wasn’t even old enough to shout me a beer.
“I’ll have a Double, thanks.” I handed over my money to Romain. He took it in a trembling hand. I like to think his nerves had been overcome by my unconventional beauty but, realistically, there was a constant draft coming from the sliding automatic door at the entrance and the night was a cold one. I waited for a few minutes before my order was called up. It was heavier than I expected. I took my charge to a nearby table and sat down.
There were a lot of people in the restaurant. A young couple were chatting animatedly while picking at a shared Two Piece Feed. She dipped a chip in potato and gravy and brought it to her mouth, clearly too lost in her companion’s eyes to realise a shiny blob of the stuff had found a home just below her lip. He obviously didn’t mind much. In fact, judging by the adoring look in his eyes, he probably had every intention of licking it off some time in the near future.
I picked up my Double. As I lifted the mammoth midnight snack to my mouth, a strand of my hair dragged through it. Almost instantly, the small but discernible glob of barbecue sauce and bacon fat started congealing, like arterial blood, in the harsh fluorescent lighting. I ignored it and took a bite.
You know what? It tasted exactly how you’d expect two fillets of KFC chicken with cheese and bacon to taste. That is to say, it tasted alright. But, lubricated with barbecue sauce, the mouthful slid down my throat at approximately the same pace as the sinking of my heart.
Without a companion to whom I could spout the necessary guilt-sating platitudes of, “Oh my god, I’m so gross eating this thing, look at me being so gross!” (the deliciously unspoken implication being, “but it doesn’t matter, because you still totally want to see me naked later”), the KFC Double Down was, actually, making me double down.
I stood up from the lacquered chair, and noticed that I had left behind a fine mist of condensation on the seat. It was as if I was leaving behind a part of my lovelorn soul in KFC. I dabbed at the remnants of the short-lived meal that still clung to my hair with a napkin. The piquant fragrance of barbeque sauce wafted from my mane.
As I pushed the still-warm Double Down into the garbage bin, I shot a glance towards the counter at Romain. The grease of a million fries glistened across his forehead as he passed a Twister over the counter to a customer that looked as if he’d had one too many Smirnoff Ices at Star Bar. I briefly wondered if I should ask him if he wanted to hang out when he knocked off for the night. Then I remembered that someone on a KFC salary could never afford to buy me Stella McCartney lingerie. I took a deep breath as I stepped out into the cold June night.
On the short walk home, I shed a few poultry-scented tears into a Refresher Towelette.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the opinions of the publisher.