I could tell his curious nature was getting the better of him because he wouldn’t stop talking about fried chicken.
“Have you ever tried it?”
“What, fried chicken?”
“But it’s not like McDonald's or Burger King, is it?”
“If you’re asking if it’s some massive fast food chain which dishes out fairly dreary meals that all taste the same and are full of salt and sugar, my guess is yes.”
“Can we try it?”
So, a couple of days later, we went on a fried chicken expedition. Martín even knew where our local KFC was in Ealing. How? Father Google, of course.
The menu, surprisingly enough, was full of chicken. Chicken in strips, chicken in balls, chicken in bread, chicken with a dip. Twisters, Zingers, Ranchers. The menu read far more like a fairground map than anything I’d want to put in my mouth. We opted for dipping strips and a couple of pieces of the original stuff. It came to nearly £9, and those were the cheap options.
There’s a reason besides the food I don’t like fast food restaurants. The tables are so square and the chairs are so awful. The walls are bright with ridiculous colours and smiley-faced graphics. The ‘free’ drink on offer is a fizzy one. People leave their leftovers and litter lying about. The posters magnify the artificiality of the food. The serviettes don’t do anything. These are soulless places.
And yet all manner of people go there. On this Monday lunchtime there was a suited and booted businessman; two grandmas; a biker all in leather; mums with young kids; two teenage boys and, unfortunately, us. We sat in the sun by the window.
It wasn’t so disgusting I had to hurl. I finished my three dippy chicken bits. But it wasn’t great. It wasn’t even near good. The chicken was the colour of death; pallid and pasty. And it was chewy in a wet kind of way. I know chicken should be moist, but not like it’s got little streams running through it. That’s not what Delia means, surely?
Martín’s foray into fried chicken went well, but then, with Argentine taste buds the extra salt and sugar would go down extremely well. “I think this is much better for me that a burger, don’t you?” he said. “It feels a lot better, and there’s no bread.” This is very much progress from the man who asked for a basket of bread in a Chinese restaurant.
An hour later, we were both reaching for the water and feeling that post-fast food stomach lurch. This always happens to me: the thirst and feeling of a brick being in my stomach, solid and stubborn. How can people eat and live like this? I dread to think what that chicken’s coated in to entice uncultured taste buds back time and time again. I asked Martín to add his KFC meal to his calorie counter. He refused to find out. He obviously secretly thinks it’s all very bad stuff and doesn’t want to know.
And now, neither do I. I am no foodie snob. I have no interest in closing down unworthy restaurants with what I write. Each to their own, right? I am happy eating goat road-kill curried up in Africa; or trying an eye, feet, insects, insides from animals around the world. You have to try anything once. For this reason, I went to KFC in the first place.
But, as I won’t be eating eyes again, nor will I be munching on chicken shapes in KFC. There’s something OK about eating something in its truest form, even if you find it disgusting. But the plastic-tasting meals at KFC, or indeed any of its fast food cousins, aren’t things I can get to grips with, let alone stomach.