Make it a Double

Grease and Self-loathing in Hintonburg

Today I'm paying for not sleeping much on Sunday night. I've managed to pick up another cold and am taking immediate and drastic action to stomp it out. As I write this, I am sitting in bed swaddled in winter clothes, a steaming mug of every imaginable folk remedy sits at hand, and I've just slammed back a fistful of vitamins and anti-everythings. But, the show must go on.

I thought I would allow for it to become old news before commenting on it, and so I have waited patiently as the KFC Double Down made the rounds of media and small talk. I watched its genesis from whispered curiosity to cultural reference without weighing in. At this point though, it's probably been long enough for some sober second thought.

On this unremarkable Tuesday evening, one Dave Mandia and I made an excursion to Scott's Chicken Villa. This is one of those rare KFC franchises that was allowed to maintain its retro appearance, grandfathered during the great corporate re-branding some years ago. While the interior is modern, cramped and dingy, vaguely reminiscent of some kind of state-run dispensary, the exterior hearkens back to a simpler time of cars made of metal and smoking indoors. We ordered our respective doses of the fabled menu item, joking about asking for a poutine on the side. According to the guy serving us, we would be far from the first to do so.

I should backtrack a bit. The real impetus for consuming such an atrocious creation today in particular came from the newspaper. It was breaking news today that health professionals are speaking out against the dangers of the egg. Indeed, the cholesterol contained in one egg yolk exceeds the recommended daily intake for the average person. In their infinite naivety, these professionals made the error of comparing the egg to the Double Down, pointing out that it contains less cholesterol than a sunny-side up. I'm sure I wasn't the only person to immediately think, "Oh, so the Double Down isn't really all that bad for you..." Truly, a victory for the health zealots everywhere. I definitely think there's something to Socrates' suggestion that there is something ignoble about an excessive fixation with health, but that's another story. Needless to say, I was thinking about chicken used as bread all day, and also wondering if they might conceive of a breakfast version with an egg added to it.

The first miscalculation on my part was that Scott's is a purely take away establishment. I had planned to gorge myself on this sodium-packed delight at plastic-topped table, staring wistfully into the parking lot. No such luck.

The first bite was remarkable. It really did feel like eating a sandwich. I tore through it pretty quickly, my taste buds simultaneously disgusted and enflamed. I can't really say that it tasted like much other than salt, with a hint of bacon. I definitely didn't want seconds.

Having taken the plunge, the thing that most interests me is the obsession we seem to have with things like the Double Down. I do not for a second buy the sniveling wailings that people do not truly realize how unhealthy their food is, that they need to be educated and then, once they know the truth, they will all become healthier. The success of the Double Down is not the product of ignorance, and to suggest that it is is a distortion. To eat a Double Down is an act of indulgence, but it is also an act of willed self-destruction. Maybe these two things aren't really all that different. Perhaps the essence of indulgence is a pointed disregard for the continuation of one's life, or put another way, an affirmation of one's mortality, of the inevitability of decay. We eat crap like this to experience the reassuring limitation of our existence, to ward of the frightening prospect of endless present.

To obsess over one's health at every waking moment is to live out the constant anticipation of death in a very immanent form. It is exhausting in its own right, it taxes the mind and puts the soul on edge. To indulge, however, to Double Down, is to relax this death-grip on the present, to postpone the confrontation with consequence to it's proper place. All it does in the meantime is make you really thirsty.