Thursday, April 15, 2010

The KFC Double Down, unboxed and in our mouths

Posted By on Thu, Apr 15, 2010 at 11:42 AM

Where to begin. We hear about this nuts new edible thing (withholding judgement on calling it "food") from KFC that strains credulity. The Double Down. Maybe you've heard of it. Instead of a bun, they give you two chicken breasts. Then we see the commercial and notice that there's a famous Gonzaga boy in it. So obviously we're going to try the thing right?

But you can't be a rational human being and merely try the Double Down. The Double Down sucks you against your will into an intellectual and gustatory heart of darkness.

Let's just begin at the beginning: ---

The American idea of what makes a man a man has become commodified, from cowboys (John Wayne) to only cowboys who smoke a particular brand of cigarette (The Marlboro Man). And also more selfish, from men who are gruff but protective of the fairer sex (Rhett Butler, every Bogart character) to those who treat women as instruments of dwindling sexual gratification (David Duchovny in Californication and also, apparently in real life, Tiger Woods).

In American consumerism, this trend has hit its shrill fever pitch: Being a man is about not just doing whatever the hell you want, but buying whatever you want. In commercials, masculinity has uniformly come to be portrayed as men who are 30 but still acting like they live in a fraternity and are also either homely or slightly overweight (with bonus points across the board for looking like Seth Rogen). These men want nothing in life so much as buying/doing/eating/screwing whatever feels good.

In fast food commercials, meat is sexualized and there's generally an implicit hatred of vegetables. The Carl's Jr $6 Dollar Burger drips with grease and cheese sweat and burger goo. Not a tomato slice or leaf of lettuce in sight.

Kentucky Fried Chicken took the men-love-meat stereotype to a hilariously absurd place with the Double Down. They have declared food war not just on vegetables, but also on grain products. The KFC Double Down is a "sandwich" so packed with meat "we didn't have room for a bun."

Check out the national commercial, featuring Gonzaga alum Joe Bereta to get a sense of the insanity:

For Bereta, playing this particular kind of douchebag is the satire around which his comic career is centered. The meat-need isn't played for laughs here, though. The men start out with high, girly voices and, once they get their Double Downs, their voices drop to a normal octave (as do their balls, we assume), and they are allowed to be men again.

Inlander contributor Chris Dreyer and I wanted to see how much manlier a KFC Double  Down would make us, so we took a drive yesterday to the KFC at Northwest Blvd just off the Maple/Ash corridor and bought one each.

Then we fed them to each other.

Which garnered some looks.

On the taste-test front, the Double Down was simultaneously overwhelming and underwhelming. It comes in a box big enough to house a Lear Jet, but the thing itself is actually pretty small.

Both the grilled and fried versions were confusing to eat and annoyingly messy. (Picabu Bistro's Cactus Burger, by contrast, is gloriously, joyously messy.) You stare at it trying to figure out what to do.

For something with two types of cheese (Swiss, pepper jack), two strips of bacon and two chicken breasts seasoned with, like, one million herbs and spices, the thing had very little taste. No, take that back: The flavors grease and sodium were both well represented. 

Which leads us to conclude: The Double Down is more marketing ploy than food item. Of the roughly 20 senior citizens and one middle-aged man at KFC for lunch with us, no one was eating the Double Down.

As we left, full but not satisfied, Dreyer's final word was perhaps the most to the point: "This is Atkins' final 'f--- you.'" 

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About The Author

Luke Baumgarten

Luke Baumgarten is commentary contributor and former culture editor of the Inlander. He is a creative strategist at Seven2 and co-founder of Terrain.