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A Family Scrapbook May Have Unearthed KFC's Secret Recipe

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Like the recipe for Coca-Cola, the 11 herbs and spices that make up KFC’s distinctive chicken has become part of the company’s lore. Numerous people have claimed to unearth these secret formulas over the years, but there’s never been any official confirmation.

In the case of Joe Ledington, the latest man to have pulled back the curtain on food trade secrets, there’s one compelling fact that adds to his credibility: He’s the nephew of Colonel Harland Sanders.

In a recent travelogue article for the Chicago Tribune, author Jay Jones visited Corbin, Kentucky, home of the Harland Sanders Café and Museum. Sanders started his chicken empire there, deep-frying birds to sell out of a service station.

According to Jones, an interview with Ledington at the Museum led to Jones being invited to look through a family scrapbook that originally belonged to his Aunt Claudia, Sanders’ second wife. As Ledington flipped through the pages, Jones caught sight of a handwritten note marked “11 spices.” Below it:

2/3 Ts [tablespoon] Salt

½ Ts Thyme

½ Ts Basil

1/3 Ts Origino [sic]

1 Ts Celery Salt

1 Ts Black Pepper

1 Ts Dried Mustard

4 Ts Paprika

2 Ts Garlic Salt

1 Ts Ground Ginger

3 Ts White Pepper

Mixed with two cups of white flour, this was the secret recipe that KFC had kept such a tight lid on for decades, Ledington insisted. When a Tribune fact-checker called to confirm, Ledington downgraded his assurance a bit, saying he couldn’t be positive—all he knows for sure is that it isn’t the Colonel’s handwriting.

When Jones solicited comment from KFC, the company noted that Sanders had been in the habit of posting the recipe in his restaurant for anyone to see. Despite that visibility, KFC insists no one who has claimed to have the recipe has ever been accurate.

So can you save yourself a trip and make authentic KFC at home? You might: The Tribune had a go at it with promising results. But Sanders also pioneered a pressure-cooking method—where the deep fryer is covered with a lid—that might be harder to replicate. Taste testers also found that the frying oil was too hot in early attempts, resulting in a bland bird. The test kitchen had to play with the amount of coating and the addition of MSG—which KFC admits it uses in its Original Recipe—to get a similar taste. Even if the recipe is accurate, it’s probably best to leave it to the experts.

[h/t Chicago Tribune]

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John G. Mabanglo/Getty Images
The iMac Was Almost Called the MacMan
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John G. Mabanglo/Getty Images

After breaking out with its Macintosh line of personal computers in the 1980s, Apple was in a slump. Sales had flagged as Microsoft's Windows operating system made waves. In 1998, the company was set to unveil a product that it hoped would reinvigorate its brand.

And they almost blew it.

According to Ken Segall, the advertising genius behind their "Think Different" campaign, Apple founder Steve Jobs was expecting the iMac to reverse the company's ailing fortunes. Where older Macs had been boxy, beige, and bland, the iMac came in an assortment of colors and had a transparent chassis that showed off its circuitry. The problem, as Segall writes in his new book, Insanely Simple, was that Jobs didn't want to call it the iMac. He wanted to call it the MacMan.

"While that frightening name is banging around in your head, I'd like you to think for a moment about the art of product naming," Segall writes. "Because of all the things in this world that cry out for simplicity, product naming probably contains the most glaring examples of right and wrong. From some companies, you see names like 'iPhone.' From others you see names like ‘Casio G'zOne Commando' or the ‘Sony DVP SR200P/B' DVD player."

According to Segall, Jobs liked the fact that MacMan was slightly reminiscent of Sony's Walkman branding concept for its line of cassette players. (Later, Sony had a Discman, Pressman, and Talkman.) But Segall, who named products for a living, feared the name would take away from Apple's identity as being original. It was also gender-biased, and alienating an entire demographic of consumers was never a good thing.

Instead, Segall suggested "iMac," with the "i" for internet, because the unit was designed to connect easily to the web. Jobs "hated" the idea, along with other suggestions, even though Segall felt the iMac could provide a foundation to name other devices, just as Sony's Walkman had. Segall kept suggesting it, and Jobs eventually had it printed on a prototype model to see how it would look. After encouragement from his staff, he dropped MacMan. With this key contribution, Segall made sure no one would be lining up to buy a PhoneMan 10 years later. 

[h/t FastCoDesign]

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Warner Bros./iStock
The Bizarre Reason Burger King Wants to Keep It Out of Russia
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Warner Bros./iStock

For decades, Burger King and McDonald’s have been engaged in one of the most competitive corporate rivalries in fast food history. In the 1980s, the two actually went to court over accusations about Burger King's sourcing and preparation of meats. In 2016, a BK restaurant in Queens, New York, was draped in sheets and made to look like the ghost of McDonald’s.

The sniping continues, but this time McDonald’s isn’t really involved. According to The Hollywood Reporter and coming our way via Eater, the Russian branch of Burger King has filed a complaint with the country’s Federal Anti-Monopoly Service (FAS) over the recent horror blockbuster It. The reason? They claim the movie’s evil clown, Pennywise, is so reminiscent of Ronald McDonald that the release will constitute an unfair advertising opportunity for their competitor.

While this sounds like either a prank or publicity stunt hatched by Burger King’s marketing arm, the FAS confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter that the burger chain did indeed request the movie be banned. That doesn’t mean it’s not a marketing ploy—there must be economic advantages to comparing a chief competitor’s mascot to a child-murdering clown—but it does offer some substance to the claim. The FAS told the outlet that it “can’t be concerned” with a fictional character in a movie that has nothing to do with hamburgers, but hasn’t made any final decision.

Owing to the recent scary-clown hysteria, McDonald’s has actually dialed down Ronald’s appearances in public over the past two years, which does raise suspicion over what he’s been doing with his downtime. It: Chapter Two is scheduled to infuriate Burger King even more when it’s released in 2019.

[h/t Eater]  


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