When I was a ten-year-old at summer camp, we had two favorite horror stories. One was a highly specific tale of an escaped asylum inmate who crept into a woman’s home, ritually killed and dismembered her dog, then took the dog’s place under her bed all night, periodically licking her hand. The other was the Kentucky Fried Rat.
The Myth of the KFR—and later the KFMSC (Kentucky Fried Mutant Spider Chicken)—has been debunked. Repeatedly. To the point where the current Snopes article is a masterpiece of literary analysis (“Women are most often the victim in this legend probably because they are considered more vulnerable than men, but perhaps also because this tale reinforces the notion that women have abdicated their traditional role as the family’s meal preparers…”). If that wasn’t enough, KFC regularly addresses it on their blog (called, charmingly enough, Chicken Chattin’).
And yet… I hadn’t been inside a KFC in 25 years, at least in part due to that particular legend. Until today, when the very real voice of my editor overwhelmed the high-frequency, panicked whining sound emitted by my inner ten-year-old whenever I’m within a hundred feet (of a KFC, not my editor).
“Yo,” he said. “Will you eat KFC Chicken and Waffles for me? They’re ONLY in your region.”
Which, I mean, is basically our generation’s version of this:
So, like that brave next-to-next-to-Last Jedi, I went.
The KFC Chicken and Waffles — which is being tested right now in Ashville and Charlotte, North Carolina, and Greenville South Carolina — comes in two sizes: two-piece with one waffle and three-piece with two waffles.
“I’ll have the two-piece chicken and waffles,” I began, with confidence.
“Did you want that with two-piece extra-crispy or tenders?” replied the cashier.
To her credit, when I hesitated then asked, “What do you recommend?” she didn’t roll her eyes.
“Two-piece,” she said serenely.
I got it to go (I had to let my dog out; I’m not a monster.) and it came in a neat little plastic container that was still hot when I arrived home. Mrs. Butterworth had her own compartment.
The waffle was atop the chicken, which was an interesting food-staging choice, but then again it was also smaller than the chicken—around a quarter of the size of one of those giant waffles you get at local joints. Point in KFC’s favor: there is nothing worse than running out of crispy, salty chicken and staring down a vast, leaden slab of semi-cold waffle. I poured on about a third of the syrup cup and arranged a bite on my fork. Yes, I ate with a fork — I am a sophisticate.
Reader, it was not Mutant Spider Chicken. It was perfectly respectable non-mutant, non-spider chicken. The skin was crunchy, the meat tender. The waffle, while a perfect portion size for a leg and thigh, was dense and sickly sweet, even though I’d only poured on about a tablespoon of syrup. If I had it to do over, I would probably have gone with real maple syrup from my own fridge rather than the fake stuff.
If anything, I think KFC has a new waffle-based urban myth brewing. Because the “and waffles” part of this dish is not holding up its end. I’ll even help get your grandmother’s email chain started: ARE KFC WAFFLES MADE FROM GROUND SCORPIONS? Now that may not be the case, but any restaurant that works so hard to prove it makes great chicken should undoubtedly be able to also make great waffles and these aren’t them… yet. I believe in you, KFC. Address my concerns before the rollout or I’m starting your next big panic (which you’ll undoubtedly address on your newest blog, Wafflin’ Around).
Look, I live in the South. My house is 0.6 miles from an independent chicken and waffles joint. I probably won’t be dropping by my local KFC anytime soon. But on a road trip through a region where the dish is less available? Sure, I’ll stop! It’s nice to look your fears in the face and find them so pleasant.
If only I could feel the same about the escaped asylum inmate under my bed.