Colonel Harland Sanders could turn the air blue with his violent cursing.
As a child my parent chastened me to never repeat any words that the Colonel would say when he was eating country ham dinners at my grandparents big farmhouse in rural Knox County, Kentucky.
On the Colonel’s frequent visits to Saint Camillus Academy, where his daughter Mildred had graduated and where I matriculated as a child, he was much more circumspect in his speech. The nuns brooked no nonsense from any man no matter how rich and famous he was.
On a recent visit to Corbin, Kentucky I did what I always do; ate at the birthplace of Kentucky Fried Chicken; Sanders Court And Cafe. It’s located on the north end of town right down the road from a Quick Lube and around the corner from where the Colonel lived in a modest one story home.
Entering the museum side of the restaurant, you’re faced with a mockup of the original kitchen with all the period implements one would expect in such a setting. I’m particularly taken by all the antique cast-iron pots and pans just sitting around.
Vaulting the counter, gathering the pans and hightailing it briefly seems like a good idea but an inner, cooler head prevails and I make my way to the counter.
I order a chicken thigh and a breast and content myself with walking about taking pictures while the food is prepared. The sides at Kentucky Fried Chicken are dismal so there’s no need to pollute my belly with mashed potatoes or other nonsense.
If you’re looking for a square meal you’ll have to look elsewhere.
A young hip hop artist is posing with a life-sized statue of the Colonel and I ask if I may take his photo; he acquiesces.
The food comes quickly and I note that I’ve been bequeathed two free biscuits, a bit of lagniappe in Southeastern Kentucky.
As the skin crunches, the exterior gives way to firm, greasy flesh. The seasoning is mild with hints of garlic, black pepper and sweet paprika. This fried chicken is serviceable but in no way stirs memories of when the Colonel was still commanding the kitchen and the foods were served on good, bone plates.
Unfortunately, those days are long gone but I’ll always eat one meal per year at the original Sanders Court & Cafe.
Same as I’ve done each year since I quit the mountains of Kentucky when I was 17 years old.
688 Us Highway 25 W