Out and About: Free Chicken at KFC

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So last week, inexplicably tied to Earth Day, Popeye’s offered eight pieces of fried chicken for 4.99. People were tee-hee-ing on Twitter and blogs about how Black folks were going to be acting up.

You know how Black folks are about fried chicken. Some of us anyway.

I don’t mess with the stuff.

Let me clarify.

I was raised on the stuff. At least three nights a week, my mom threw some wings in a heavy-duty brown paper bag, added flour and spices, shook it up and pan-fried them until they were crispy. A few were drained on paper towels. A few would go back into the pan to be smothered in gravy. These wings were served with white rice and greens or spinach.

Even at a very young age, I was very particular about what parts of the chicken I would eat.

ovenbakedfriedchickmay06-1

1. This is the only true meaty part of a chicken wing. I’d take a bite into that part. And get a mouthful of white meat. Fine by me.

2. I don’t mess with this area. It’s veiny, full of gristle and weird stuff. Very little meat.

3. Unless the wing is deep fried, I’m not messing with this area either. Way too much veiny mystery meat.

I would take my one and a half bites of chicken wing and then push them to the side. My dad would say, “You done with those? Hmph.” He’d take ’em off my plate and work them over until you could literally see the ball and socket of that chicken’s wing.

Eew.

Even my little sister, five years younger, could work over a chicken wing. My dad would hold up her gleaming wing and say, “See Aliya. This is how you eat a chicken wing.”

Eew.

I think part of my issue with wings is that they look too similar to the animal’s actual body part.

I’m a would-be vegetarian who goes on and off meat every so often. Sometimes my body seems to crave a bloody carcass. Other times, I feel like a PETA advocate and seeing those little wings, once attached to feathers and beating hearts. Well, it totally skeeves me out.

A burger bears no resemblance to its origin. I can pretend burger patties grow on trees.

But a wing, (and a breast and a leg and a thigh), can not be disguised.

There’s another issue I have with chicken wings. And part of the reason why you wouldn’t have caught me at Popeye’s on Earth Day or any other day.

Eating chicken requires…delicateness. If I’m going to eat it, it’s with family or at my parent’s house. Not in a restaurant or at a picnic with random folks I don’t know.

I’m not so into breaking apart food with my hands and eating things that require my teeth to be bared.

I told a friend this once. And she rolled her eyes and said, “That’s ’cause you’re not Black enough to eat fried chicken.”

I was offended by this. But whatever. That’s a post for another day.

There are definitely historical issues associated with Black folks and chicken that give me pause. Like most foods associated with Black folks, (ex: chitterlings), fried chicken goes back to medieval times in Europe. It became a southern dish then a Black southern dish.

And the imagery surrounding Black folks and fried chicken can be disturbing. Ever heard of the Coon Chicken Inn?

To the left of the photo, you can see the "coon" that served as the front door to the Coon Chicken Inn. You walked in through the mouth of the caricature. Directly in front is a "coon car." These vehicles were used for delivery.

To the left of the photo, you can see the "coon" that served as the front door to the Coon Chicken Inn. You walked in through the mouth of the caricature. Directly in front is a "coon car." These vehicles were used for delivery.

It was a popular restaurant in Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington throughout the ’30’s and 40’s. It was closed in the early 50s. Here’s a picture of the menu.

ccimenu

Sigh.

The NAACP actually sued the Coon Chicken Inn in the 1930s for this racist imagery. The company changed the background color of the logo from black to blue. And took out the word “coon” on the logo. (Though the name remained Coon Chicken Inn.)

Let’s not forget, in 2009, Black folks are still equated with fried chicken. Obama’s presidency brought up a sprinkling of pure insanity:

small_obama-chicken-fingers

This can't be real. Can it? Yeah. It can.

And this is in New York!! I want my New York readers to explain to me WHY they are not going all Do The Right Thing at this location. I want answers NOW.

And this is in New York!! I want my New York readers to explain to me WHY they are not going all Do The Right Thing at this location. I want answers NOW.

There is actually a point to my post.

I was embarassed when I heard about my people getting severely bent out of shape when their local Popeye’s restaurant either ran out of chicken before they could cop or didn’t honor the national campaign at all.

I cringed when I heard about people taking cabs to get to the one Popeye’s restaurant in Minnesota. Really? It was that deep? You took a cab to a fast-food restaurant to buy some friend chicken? Come on.

When I heard about KFC offering a free piece of chicken to celebrate their new grilled chicken, I couldn’t help but wonder if my folks were gonna wild out once again.

A Twitter-friend told me not to worry. Black folks like fried chicken. Not grilled.

But still, I thought, it’s free.

I thought it would be fun to go to KFC today and cop a free piece of grilled chicken. But there was something nagging at me. Did I really want to go to a fast-food joint, a chicken joint and get a free anything?

I can’t even bring myself to use coupons. I feel stupid standing there with a piece of colored paper with jagged edges. Talking about, “this says fifty cents off when you buy seven…”

It’s just not me.

And y’all know I’m on a tight budget these days. So if I went to KFC and they were on some bullcrap, I know I would end up buying something just to save face. There’s no way I was gonna just walk away looking hungry if they said, “nope. No free chicken here.”

So me and Tog hung out all day today. Library. Starbucks. Window-shopping. And when I coudn’t put it off anymore, I drove to Glenwood Avenue to my neighborhood KFC.

I stayed in the car for a while, checking the signage. There was nothing anywhere that said, “free chicken.”

Suspicious.

Tog looked up at the window and said, “Chicken?!”

“Yeah. Maybe.” I said.

We got out. I left my purse in the car. And then, at the last minute, I grabbed my wallet.

I wait on line, wondering what I’m supposed to say.

“Hey, I just want a free piece of chicken.”

No way!

I wanted to say that. But I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.

“Can I get a biscuit please,” I told the young man at the counter.

“Anything else?”

My throat actually started to get a little tight! Why was I so embarassed by this?

“Um. Can I get the…Are you offering the…”

Dude just stood there, waiting for me to finish.

“Is today the day you’re offering a sample of your new grilled chicken?”

Yup. That’s what I said. I wanted to kick myself. I sounded like a bougie idiot.

“Yeah. But you have to buy something. If you’re definitely getting this biscuit you can try the chicken.”

“Fine.” I said.

He gave me a warning look.

“The biscuit is 69 cents,” he said. “Is that okay?”

My teeth were on edge.

“Yes, that’s fine.”

“74 cents with tax,” he said, before ringing it up.

I think he was trying to be funny.

He picked up the tongs and started picking around the chicken.

“Do you want a wing or a leg?” he asked.

Ew.

I knew better than to ask for a breast, the only part of the chicken I can really eat.

“I’ll take a wing.”

I really wish my camera wasn’t on the fritz. Because that was the saddest grilled chicken wing I’ve ever seen in my life. It had to be at least five hours old. The seasonings were barely there. I pulled off a piece from the meaty part and let Tog taste it. She chewed it thoughtfully. I offered her another piece and she said, “no thank you mommy!”

I tried it myself. Dried out. Bland. No good.

And worst of all, it wasn’t free. I saw the commercials all day long on Sunday. They didn’t say anything about free sample with purchase. They just said: free.

Shameful.

I don’t like chicken. But I do like free.

I’m still uncomfortable with the imagery surrounding Black folks and chicken. And I should have known that KFC was up to no good when they put this  video on their homepage. What in the?!?! Is that first woman dancing like a chicken? Oh hell no.

Sigh.

dear readers: free chicken. fried chicken. grilled chicken. popeye’s. kfc. cultural stereotypes. discuss.

I’d love to hear from you…

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17 Responses to “Out and About: Free Chicken at KFC”

  1. Antonio Says:

    damn Coon Chicken Inn!?!? WOW. Insanity.

    Sadly, we’re in another century and this is the silliness we’re subjected to: http://bit.ly/Egm7I.

  2. slb Says:

    tog: “chicken?!”

    you: “yeah. maybe.”

    girl, i don’t know WHY that was so funny to me, but it was.

    i don’t like chicken, either. and if i’m gon’ get a biscuit from any chickenry, it’d be popeye’s. so i don’t know what i would’ve done at the counter. lol

    maybe potato wedges–or a little bucket parfait. (do they still have those?)

    that “grilled” chicken on their website looks gross. did the piece you got have the “grill lines?”

  3. tmpringl Says:

    I actually heard some people say that it was good! So I’m a little hesitant now…Hmmm.

    In public, I don’t eat anything other than a skinless, boneless chicken breast that I can eat with a knife and fork. I “accidentally” forgot my rule one time and brought some chicken wings to work. AHHHH!!!! How am I supposed to eat this? With my fingers? At work!?!?! Impossible. I had to go to the little spot across the street to get something acceptable. There’s something…off about having BBQ sauce on your mouth while trying to be professional. I couldn’t do it.

    You cracked me up with that story. I love how Tog said, “Um, no thanks. That ish is gross.” LOL!

  4. Anonymous Says:

    YOU ARE A NUT! AND I LOVE IT!

    KENNY M

  5. la negrita Says:

    The reason so many Black people are ashamed about publicly acknowledging their love of fried chicken is because of the stereotypes. It’s totally understandable, but I think it’s time we got over this hangup. Like it or not, fried chicken is a part of our culture and we need to embrace it. Is there more to us than chicken? Absolutely! But the more we are embarrassed about these things, the more power we hand over to the ones who contributed to our insecurity in the first place.

    Hells yeah I like friend chicken, so pass me a wang!

  6. Yolonda Says:

    The commerical didn’t look appealing to me…the gril marks looked so fake. Glad you previewed it for me. I don’t do fried chicken unless I know who made it (i.e. Mom, friends).

  7. Katura Says:

    “no thank you mommy!” Hilarious!

    I haven’t eaten KFC in about 6 years. I’m convinced I got food poisoning there. I have eaten Popeyes, and I have NO problem bringing my coupons up in there or anywhere else. But I’m like you, Aliya, not a real chicken eater. It’s breast or nothing for me. I refuse to gnaw on a drumstick like it’s corn on the cob.

  8. Thembi Says:

    Aside from the black comedic tradition, there is no black american cultural nugget in as close conflict with stereotypes as that of our food. In all cases when this line gets fuzzy, I say err on the side of cultural preservation and expression. Fried chicken should not be an everyday thing for ANYONE but we’d be foolish to act like we’d go into a white person’s house and expect their fried chicken to be as good as their green bean casserole, let alone as good as our momma’s or grandmomma’s chicken. I think the poultry industry is weird and the stuff is not very good for you, but I have chicken eating ingrained in my upbringing.

    I’ll tell it like this…

    I never thought much about chicken, what it meant, or whether I liked it until I became a vegetarian and realized that I didn’t miss it one bit. When I started eating meat again a few years later chicken was the last thing to make it back into my diet simply because it fullfills no cravings UNLESS we’re talking about fried chicken (what ISNT good fried?) or Buffalo wings. To that point, if Mom or a friends Mom makes fried chicken, I’m all in, and if I’m having a “bar food” moment I murder some Buffalo Wings, which cant be too often since theyre the most fattening food in the world. And to this day Ive noticed that I was raised somehow to clean a chicken bone like an archeologist on a dig. Just this year, when my sister and I went to a group dinner and everyone had a few Buffalo wings we noticed that we were the only ones who cleaned those bones to be damned. I mean they weren’t just cleaned of all meat, those jawns were DRY. What can ya do?

  9. jovi Says:

    Thanks ASK, now you have me looking at my chicken funny. It now has a first name and a face.

    I discussed the chicken epidemic at Popeye’s with some college mates. We joked about the long lines and how they ran out of chicken. Heard the police had to be called to one spot when the sign went up ‘NO MORE CHICKEN’. I was actually mad cause in my head I planned to go to the doctor on thursday, cross the street and pick up dinner. Didn’t find out until thursday morning that the cheap chicken day was wednesday, grumble, grumble.

    I have no problem eating fried chicken but it has to be cooked by the ‘right’ person, mom, auntie, cousin mookie, etc. I prefer dark over white meat and can tear a bone up, all the way down to the marrow. EeW.

  10. serenakim Says:

    you have to try korean fried chicken. it will blow you away.

  11. clove Says:

    “Is today the day you’re offering a sample of your new grilled chicken?”

    this is hilarious. I figured there was a catch

  12. dailyfortune Says:

    I’m sure you’ve heard by now how Church’s is using twitter to market it towards it’s “multicultural urban fans.” Can we go so far to say that Church’s is breakin’ stereotypes? Being very sarcastic here. But for reals, people need to realize that people will do anything for free food. When McDonalds was giving out one free (not to mentioned unwrapped) Chicken Select — they distributed coupons all over the ‘burbs where I’m from. The line was literally out the door and cars spilling into the street from the drive through. And there definitely weren’t that many black people in that city. Yet, i doubt this will ever divorce the historical stereotypes of black people from tasty battered chicken…. anyway, great story and blog.

  13. Food for thought « Daily Fortune Says:

    […] S. King, in another one of her hilarious and sharp  daily musings, discusses the anxiety of being a black woman at a KFC joint, trying to get some of the free baked chicken samples.  An interesting read about identity […]

  14. Thumbu Says:

    Coon’s Chicken also turned up in the early-00s film, ‘Ghost World.’ One of the characters does a project on the Coon’s Chicken cover up, too. Kind of interesting. Very disturbing. Especially, knowing that those images circulated globally.

  15. Aliya S. King Says:

    @dailyfortune: I did not know that Church’s was on Twitter. I can’t go to Church’s chicken. In Newark, New Jersey, early-to-mid 80s, there were rumors that Church’s was owned by the Klan. So insane. But I still can’t go there. How crazy is that? Check out a little info on the story here.

  16. dailyfortune Says:

    OH damn. That is crazy. Had i known this earlier, I wouldn’t have gone last week (or the week before) to get some fried okra chunks to-go. I have to say, Church’s > than KFC original recipe, hands down.

  17. yes Says:

    Oprah’s co-signing KFC now…

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