I had always dreamed about traveling around the world. I planned to immerse myself in the culture: meet the locals, kiss their sons, drink the local firewater and increase my language skills. Most importantly, I wanted to eat nothing but local food -- pad Thai in Thailand, sag paneer in India, pinto gallo in Costa Rica and yes, escargot in Paris. However, promises (especially to oneself) are meant to broken and I cracked within a mere week abroad.
The incident occurred in the Mexico City airport en route to Costa Rica. I was leaning against a wall, trying to keep my 70-pound backpack from taking me down, when the glorious scent of Mickey D's french fries wafted by. Ahhh...yaaaaahh. My friend Vicky and I plunged into our pockets and immediately went into Peso Panic. Good lord, would we have enough?? After a bit of scraping around though, we ran into the McDonald's, backpacks nearly knocking over the other happy occupants. We barely noticed and emerged with a grin of post-gorge satisfaction, licking our little fingers happily. I learned then and there about the powerful Fast Food Frenzy and decided that I just wouldn't fight it.
But I did play a little game that alleviated some of my guilt. What if I traveled around the world comparing the retail outfits of a corporate fast food haven? Each culture's version of the fare would be noted and the comparisons might lead to some uh, sort of, you know, insight. I chose KFC for this operation, specifically because 1) I love greasy chicken 2) I love Pepsi 3) Pepsi-Co is damn good at globalization and I could find the chain in the darkest recesses of the world, if necessary.
I've awarded some of the top establishments in various countries for their tasty and unique versions of KFC staples:
1) Best Mashed Potatoes: San Jose, Costa Rica has far and away the best mashed potatoes imaginable. They're chunky, yellowish and nothin' like the stuff they serve in the States. (which btw I am a fan of)
2) Best Restaurant: The KFC in Chaing Mai, Thailand actually serves their chicken with real utensils. No plastic sporks in this joint -- it's a very classy meal!
3) Best Rice: Yeah, weird to imagine, but SE Asia doesn't serve mashed potatoes. Lombok, Indonesia did have some very tasty white rice to savor. (note: I loved this restaurant because I found one of my best travel souvenirs -- a toilet sticker that showed a little stick figure squatting ON the toilet with a broad red X through it and a happy little stick man sitting ON the toilet. Copies available).
4) Best Chicken: I'm really thinking this goes to the outlet in Cairo. Middle Easterners really do their chicken right!
5) Best Corn on the Cob: I'm actually going to give this to San Jose, Costa Rica. Soft and sweet.
6) Best Biscuits: SORRY, but I cannot in good faith give this award to any of the foreign KFCs. The best I've had is here in the good ole US of A and no one (so far) can even compare. Carry reserves.
-Contributor: Jeannie Wilkinson