“Gimme, gimme, gimme fried chicken” sang Freddie Mercury a long time ago. And, to be fair, he had a point.
What that point was exactly has been lost in the fullness of time. And, while Freddie is sadly no longer with us, fried chicken, lives on.
From the humble beginnings of the colonel’s secret recipe all those years ago in Kentucky – a time of innocence in the Deep South where rednecks lynched black people and then ate fried chicken – we now live in a world where KFC, Chicken Cottage and Nando’s are an integral part of our furniture. Especially in London. You can’t move for chicken.
A friend of mine recently moved into a house where the housemates were keeping chickens in the garden. Each of them had their own chicken. The chickens are dead now. A fox ate them. They didn’t even have a chance to coat them in bread crumps and chuck ‘em in the deep fat fryer. But this blog is not about hand reared organic chickens, it’s about battery farmed, antibiotic fed, diseased broiler chickens. You know, the kind most of us eat.
It’s been clinically proven that fried chicken, consumed over a period of many years, will kill you in the most painful way possible. Try telling that to the party animals spilling out of Hoxton Square in the early hours of the morning. The chicken burger (with cheese, obviously) has surpassed the doner kebab as the food stuff of choice for the incapably pissed Londoner about to board the night bus home. And not only is it great when massively pissed…..it’s also great the day after a massive piss up. KFC is now officially the essential hangover meal. In fact, it’s the only time you should really eat fried chicken and feel ok about yourself*. There’s something about the greasy, salty, fatty thigh of a plump, cooked chicken that screams “eat me now” to the dehydrated, starving, just-woken-up-at-2pm-on-a-Sunday youth of today.
*the only other permissible time to eat fried chicken is when you only have £3.27 in cash in your pockets and can’t be bothered to go to a cash machine. Don’t get me wrong, you can try to get to a cash machine, but the fact is you’re likely to find a fried chicken outlet way before you get to the ATM. Shit, there’s one within 3 minutes of my front door. It’s name? Cozy Chicken. That’s right, Cozy Chicken. What, you gotta problem with the name? What’s wrong with you? I would have thought the derivation obvious. No? Ok, no.
And so we get to the crux of this blog. The essence here is not the lemon scented wet wipes, it’s not about the choice between beans or coleslaw (it’s a tricky one, but coleslaw is the correct answer), it’s not even about popcorn chicken (whatever the fuck that is), it’s about the incredible phenomenon that has emerged on our high streets over the past 15 years or so – the fake KFC shops.
These have always fascinated me whether on Kilburn High Road, Newington Causeway or Tottenham High Road. And yet we Londoners turn a blind eye to this rich comic tapestry, they have become so everyday and mundane we don’t think twice. Even the major chains get away with ridiculousness. Chicken Cottage for example. Cottage?!?! As in, a cottage for chickens? A seaside cottage perhaps, sleeping six? What about Chicken Bungalow. Chicken Villa. Chicken Winnebago. Chicken Yurt. Chicken Youth Hostel. Chicken B&B. Chicken Semi-Detached. Chicken Maisonette…….. I could go on.
When I pointed out the ridiculousness of this brand name to a friend a few years ago, he fired back two words by text: 'Guantanamo Chicken'. I still, to this day, have no idea what the hell he was on about.
So when I discovered a brilliant young Australian photographer had devoted an entire album to these brilliant social snapshots of our modern age London I was overjoyed.
Without further ado, I give you in glorious Technicolor, a brilliant photographic homage – Kentucky Fake Chicken by Shannon Dermot Friel.