Drive-through restaurants were invented so Americans could spend more time in their cars. I don’t blame them. American cars are wonderful if you like cars with fins; so, in theory, is fast food, which is more accurately called fast death, even if they did not know that in 1947. There is a contradiction to the drive-through method of collecting food, a puzzle: if you drive, you have time to wait. But such things are not designed to be sensible. I wonder what other services could be made drive-through: lawyers and podiatrists, but my preference is for libraries and, possibly, sex.
These restaurants have thrived in pandemic, which again contradicts the Twitter craze for slow food and banana bread, which I think is a media invention, like the PM. But if you can’t get out of your car, you can’t kill a fellow diner, and so we drive to one of KFC’s 22,621 restaurants. This one is on the outskirts of Penzance.
I love to eat chicken, but since my husband invited four live chickens to share our home my feelings are more complex. They arrived upside down in a delivery man’s hands. He said they were resting. He said they liked it, but I wasn’t sure. I think they were petrified. When they stood up, I named them after fictional editors at the London Review of Books: Hildegard, Catherine, Claudia and Philippa. (David Hen Gurion was vetoed.) Possibly in unconscious homage to this, the dog is scared of them. My husband frets about their mental state and cooks them meals. When I took an extra roast potato at lunch he moaned: what about my girls? I had to sacrifice the potato.
I try to be sensitive. I buy organic free-range chickens for £15 a bird now, and when I roast these I am careful not to let ‘the girls’ see what I am doing, and to what. My mother wants to eat them when they age — you cannot get boiling chickens in Cornwall, and you cannot make chicken soup without them — but I will bury them in the garden under little Stars of David. All chickens are Jewish. That is obvious. They are my sisters, because they are female — the dog is not, he is a rapist — and it is lockdown week 13. I’ll take anything.
I am glad the girls are not at KFC with us, for this is their charnel house. I will not dwell on that, for if I did, I could not go there again.
We drive up, park by the box and speak our order to the box; this feels wild to me, but I am deranged with boredom. We drive round, pay, collect our food (bags, not buckets) and park at Marazion opposite the magic castle on the mountain.
What to say about KFC? It is, like all fast food, more drug than nutrient. The process is identical to using harder drugs, yet telescopic: yearning; consuming; shame.
I start softly, with a corn on the cob. It comes in a bag without butter. It’s fine. Then I eat the chips, which are bad, and turn to the chicken. The batter is delicious. The chicken — and I thought this before I had chicken sisters — is gross. I tear the batter off, eat it, and throw the meat to the gulls. The gulls eat the bones too, throwing their necks to the sky: birds are extraordinary. I hope it doesn’t kill them. Now the car smells of wounded chicken, 11 spices, which were leaked to the press — pepper, garlic, thyme, sage, oregano, basil, marjoram, mustard, ginger, paprika and cayenne pepper — and fat. It is more than faintly disgusting. I pray for lockdown to end.
KFC, Jelbert Way, Heliport Link Road, Penzance, tel: 01736 368197.