<p>Gareth Cox-Martin provides insight into the fast food nugget war. Who will win?</p>
On rare occasions, Truth strikes the heart all of a sudden; its searing heat makes the soul buckle and rends asunder the shackles of iniquity, and its light leads the way forward to divine emancipation. To be graced by revelation is to be reborn. I know this now because, like the apostle Paul, I too have experienced this power – though for me it was not the angel Gabriel delivering a vision of Jesus on the road to Damascus, but rather it was a visitation by Colonel Sanders on the Eastlink, heralding a promise of twenty-four chicken nuggets for only ten dollars to any who turned off the freeway and into the drive-thru. What I tasted that day revealed a glory so great that I nearly crashed my car twenty four separate times, for want of an extra pair of arms to hold the steering wheel while I dipped and savoured each of those parcels from heaven. I am fully cognizant of the gravity in what I am about to declare; but the Truth should be known to all who are ready to hear it. That Truth is: KFC make better chicken nuggets than McDonald’s.
Many times before I had made that exact same turn off on my daily commute, hungry for nuggets, only to drive right past KFC and pull into the McDonald’s next door. I rue each of those wasted opportunities. But what is worse, so much worse, is the habit I had of making rhapsodical proclamations to any who would listen that the McNugget was the finest expression of chicken-ness; the fulfillment of chicken-ness; the reason for chicken. Forgive me, Colonel! I knew not what I was doing!
Of course, it is easy to see why I would have overlooked KFC’s nuggets for so long. The problem with KFC is that their fried chicken is vile. Their advertising promises a finger lickin’ good time, and does it so well that once, at most twice a year, you think to yourself, “What I really need right now is a bucket of greasy fried chicken.”
But when you enter one of their outlets you immediately sense that something is wrong. Maybe it’s the sliminess of the tiles and the way you end up skating to the counter, or the fact that you can see your own unnerved reflection looking out from the forehead-sheen of the greasy teenaged workforce. Whatever it is, there is no mistaking that you are in the belly of a very dirty bird, readying to order some fresh regret in the form of a less-than-fresh two-piece feed. Looking up at that menu, you couldn’t feel more shame if you found yourself perusing a line-up of prostitutes at a brothel on Christmas morning, having told your wife and children you were just popping out to buy some extra cranberry sauce. Much like the lipstick on the collar and the herpes on the penis that one might bring home from that brothel, the oil stains on your shirt, the thick stench that lingers in your car, and the churning in your stomach are the just deserts of such a debasing venture as a KFC luncheon. Somewhere within the ruin of the box, beneath the soiled moist towelettes, the festering chicken carcasses, and the half-eaten potato and gravy, now hoisting an extinguished cigarette like a not-so-Jolly Roger, lies your dignity.
This is in stark contrast to the McDonald’s experience. There, the illusion is complete. To walk beneath those golden arches is to be transported back to childhood. A little motor starts in your heart and hums with anticipation, as the doors open and that sweet, cool air extends its saccharine welcome. We don’t judge here, it says. Besides, what’s to judge? You’re doing nothing wrong. Everybody eats McDonald’s. Look – we sell apples! We can’t be that bad if we have apples, now can we? What evil ever came from eating an apple?
You can order your value meal, and maybe even get them to throw in an extra cheeky cheeseburger for a ‘friend’, wink wink, without a single pang of conscience. Then, once upon your lips it dissolves into pure pleasure and enters the bloodstream, completely bypassing the stomach. You can eat three Big Macs and barely feel it – it’s like it never happened! You could eat McDonald’s all day, every day, until you were too fat to walk, and not remember having eaten a single burger. As for the McNugget – there’s no way they could make something so good using plain old chicken. That meat is either unicorn, or fillet de Jesus Christ. And the sauces! Oh, the sauces! I would eat dog food if it had McDonald’s barbecue sauce stirred into it. The other chains just can’t compete. Red Rooster’s chicken nuggets are so dry and awful that it’s like they’ve battered the chicken with bulletproof armor – you’ll crack a tooth trying to tackle one of those! Worse still is Hungry Jack’s – the one time I chanced a six-pack of their garbage nuggets I wanted to return to the store, vomit them back into the deep fryer, and sue for damages.
With all this in mind, you will understand why it took such deep discounting to find the price point at which I would turn to the Colonel when there was a perfectly good McDonald’s right next door. I wasn’t expecting big things when they handed me the plastic bag containing my giant box of nuggets. As I pulled back onto the freeway and inspected the contents of the bag, my expectations sank even lower when I noticed that the gaudily inscribed sauce packets said ‘plum barbecue’ – if it ain’t broke, don’t add plum, as I always say. My first clue that these were no ordinary nuggets was when I reached into the box that was riding shotgun on the seat next to me, and groped around, trying to lock in on a target. They were soft, and had a bounce to them, unlike the oven-baked chicken briquettes that are clattered onto children’s plates by chefs and parents alike across the land. The second clue was the visual. The batter was not the ruddy brown of an inferior nugget, nor even the gold-standard of the McNugget, but rather a gentle salt-and-pepper grey, like the sand of a remote beach, cradling a pristine lagoon on a faraway island. As I fell deeper under its spell, each individual herb and spice seemed to announce itself with a leitmotif, stirring delectable associations within me. When I took that first bite I felt the seat disappear from beneath me, and I sank for eternity into the warmth at the centre of the earth. It was more than baptism; it was metamorphosis. As the last morsel slid down my throat, I felt I had grown wings. The honking drivers behind me may have thought they were giving the finger to the same swerving idiot as before, but they weren’t; that worm was now just a carapace, from which the new me had burst forth and ascended! What’s more, it had only cost me ten dollars!
I am sharing this with you all because it has come to my attention that McDonald’s has responded to KFC in the most petulant fashion, changing its pricing to now offer twenty four McNuggets for $9.95, in an effort to steal the show from its rival. But they are too late; the cat is out of the bag. KFC are the best at chicken nuggets, and it is time they were recognized as such. Please choose KFC as your nugget provider from now on. I know it will be hard to forgive them for their abuses of chicken in the past – I too have cursed the name of the Colonel after cautiously examining a piece of original recipe, searching for a way in, only to realise I had been stuck with the piece that has almost no meat on it, and is essentially just battered rib cage. But please – have a heart! The sun will always shine on the golden arches; don’t let it go down on the dirty bird just when it might finally have reason to crow.