Hello and welcome back to Down Home Food.
Today, I want to share with you some information on a three-part documentary that I just watched on the History Channel. It’s called “The Food That Built America.” It was both extremely informative as well as entertaining. For those “foodies” like myself who just can’t get too much information about food (Rick Henry), I think you would enjoy it. If you have Spectrum, it’s available now on demand. Even if you’re just a history buff, this is a good series.
The series begins just after the Civil War in the United States and goes all the way into the 1970s and 1980s. It tells about the beginning of various successful food companies and restaurants. Included are the Heinz Company, Kellogg’s, Post, Bird’s Eye Foods, Hershey, The Mars Company, McDonald’s and Kentucky Fried Chicken.
One of the very interesting ones for me was Kentucky Fried Chicken because the company began so close to home. It all began in Corbin, Kentucky which is only about a hundred miles from here. I recall going through the town of Corbin in the 1960s on our way to my ex-husband’s family in Renfro Valley, Kentucky. We used to drive by where the first KFC was located. With the widening of Hwy 25E and the completion of I-75, that old business was demolished years ago, and a new location built on the new highway. There’s actually a Harland Sanders’ café and museum in Corbin today.
I think many of us assume that successful businesses are started by young, successful, wealthy people who begin a new business and it’s an automatic success. This is certainly not the story in many cases, and KFC and Harland Sanders are perfect examples of this.
Let’s go all the way back to the beginning of Harland Sanders. Sanders was born on a farm in Indiana in 1890. He lied in order to join the Army in 1906. His title of Colonel did not come from a military career, but from Kentucky Governor Ruby Laffoon in 1935, and again by Governor Lawrence Wetherby in 1950.
Life was not easy for the young Harland Sanders. His father died when he was only six, and his mother was often away from home with her work. Harland had to learn to cook in order to care for his siblings. By the time he was ten, he took a job as a farmhand. Other jobs he would eventually take were painting horse carriages, a streetcar conductor, an insurance salesman, a railroad fireman, a blacksmith’s helper, cleaning ashbins on trains, operating a ferry boat, selling life insurance, selling car tires, being a midwife, managing a gas station and being a secretary at the Columbus, Indiana Chamber of Commerce.
Sanders obtained a law degree by taking a correspondence course. He had a brief three year law practice in Little Rock, Arkansas. That career ended when he got into a fistfight with one of his clients.
In 1930, he began operating a franchise Shell Oil gas station. In order to boost his income, he began a makeshift restaurant in front of his gas station. Eventually, he opened up Sanders’ Café across the street from his gas station. He didn’t offer chicken at first because he thought it took too long to cook.
During the 1940s, he opened a successful restaurant in Asheville, North Carolina, but due to WWII gas rationing, the business began to fail. It was at this restaurant that he perfected his secret recipe and began cooking his chicken in a pressure cooker because it was faster than frying. This took a lot of trial and error modifications to the pressure cooker. At first many of the pressure cookers frequently exploded.
He opened a successful business in Corbin, Kentucky. (I never could pinpoint the date on this). In the 1950s I-75 was built and bypassed the town. This was devastating to Sanders’ business and he was forced to retire and sell the restaurant.
In 1952, Sanders was living on $105 a month from his Social Security. This is when he began his final career.
Sanders began traveling across the country, cooking along the way. He was determined to franchise his fried chicken. He was laughed at by many for his white suit and black tie.
Pete Harman who operated one of the largest restaurants in Salt Lake City, Utah, began selling Sanders’ chicken and as they say, “The rest was history.” After that, several more restaurant owners signed franchise agreements with Sanders for the franchise fee of four cents per chicken. You might remember one of these, Dave Thomas who would go on to begin his own successful business, Wendy’s. Thomas took over eight restaurants, and became so successful, he began his own business. Thomas is also credited with developing the classic wobbly red and white striped chicken bucket that became the classic sign outside the KFC’s today.
By 1964, there were over 600 franchised KFC locations in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, England and Jamaica. At the age of 73, Sanders sold most of KFC to John Y. Born and Jack Massey for two million dollars, retaining Canada for himself and excluding England, Florida, Utah and Montana, that he had already sold to others.
Sanders continued visiting KFC locations and, as its brand ambassador, filmed many TV commercials and made personal appearances. In 1971, the company was sold again.
So, the Colonel was not an overnight success at an early age. It took most of his life.
In honor of KFC, I’m giving you three recipes for a great chicken dinner. I came across this fried chicken recipe in Southern Living Magazine in 1982. I like it because of the seasoning. It may not have the Colonel’s 11 herbs and spices, but it is well seasoned. I always liked frying this in my oversized electric skillet. I’m not a big fan of deep-fat frying at home.
The recipe for the coleslaw is supposed to be similar to KFC’s, but I’ll just call it copycat coleslaw.
The mashed potato recipe is one I researched after I ate the most delicious mashed potatoes ever at the Pigeon Forge Mill Restaurant quite a while back. I asked the waitress if she knew the secret, and she whispered that there were turnips mixed in with the potatoes. You never know unless you ask if you might get a good tip!
As always, enjoy!
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons garlic salt
2 teaspoons pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon poultry seasoning
½ cup milk
1 egg, beaten
1 (2 ½- 3 pound) broiler-fryer (or equal amount of separate parts), cut up
Combine first 5 ingredients in a plastic bag; shake to mix, and set aside. Combine milk and egg; mix well.
Place 2 or 3 pieces of chicken in bag; shake well. Dip chicken in egg mixture; return to bag and shake again. Repeat procedure with remaining chicken.
Heat 1 inch of oil in a large skillet to 325 degrees; add chicken and fry for 30 to 35 minutes or until golden brown, turning once. Drain chicken on paper towels.
Note: from 1982 Southern Living Magazine
8 cups very finely chopped cabbage (1 head)
1/4 cup shredded carrot (1 medium carrot)
2 tablespoons finely minced onion
1/3 cup sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup milk
½ cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 tablespoon white vinegar
2 ½ tablespoons lemon juice
Be sure that cabbage, carrots, and onion are chopped up into very fine pieces about the size of a rice kernel.
Combine the sugar, salt, pepper, milk, vinegar and lemon juice and beat until smooth.
Add the cabbage, carrots, and onions.
Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.
6 large red new potatoes, skin on
2 large turnips, peeled
½ cup cream, heated
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, melted
½ cup sour cream
Salt and pepper
Slice potatoes and turnips 1/4-inch thick. Cook in boiling water for 15 minutes or until fork-tender. Drain. Whip unpeeled cooked potatoes and turnips with electric mixer, mixing until moderately smooth (don’t overbeat them; a few lumps are nice). Add hot cream, butter, and sour cream. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Whip again until blended. Adjust thickness by adding more cream, if desired.
(PUB. NOTE: Elizabeth loves to hear from readers, especially those who want to share recipes! Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.)