Colonel Sanders and the American Dream

Food for Thought: Summer Reading

Colonel Sanders and the American Dream

by Josh Ozersky (UT Press, $20, 130 pp)

According to Josh Ozersky, youth of today have no clue that the figure on the bucket of chicken was an actual person, not just a fictitious character like Betty Crocker or the Jolly Green Giant. But, as old-timers over 40 remember, the guy with the white goatee and string tie was Harlan Sanders – developer of "original recipe" Kentucky Fried Chicken, founder of the chain, and a real colonel (an honorific bestowed by the governor).

Sanders grew up in rural poverty, leaving school at 10 for farmwork to help his widowed mother. But thanks to relentless drive and talent for salesmanship, he pulled himself into the middle class. By 1925, he was running a gas station in Corbin, Ky., and selling hot lunches. This morphed into a prosperous cafe/motel, his food and service developed a national reputation, and he assumed the persona of the patrician, white-suited colonel. When Sanders was 65, the highway was rerouted and his business collapsed overnight. But he started over, taking his persona, his pressure cooker, and his secret recipe on the road, selling franchises across the country.

The book is primarily concerned with developments after Sanders sold Kentucky Fried Chicken at age 75 to a food conglomerate. He was kept on as goodwill ambassador, the literal face of the company. But it was a bitter and negatively vocal old age; as a powerless adjunct of his former creation, he watched the company expand exponentially as the food quality diminished. Ozersky waxes eloquent on the fraught and difficult relationship between the living mascot and the corporation who owned him. Not a pretty picture of the American Dream.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Food Reviews
The 31st Annual Austin Chronicle Hot Sauce Festival - FAQs
The 31st Annual Austin Chronicle Hot Sauce Festival - FAQs
presented by Capital Metro, with special thanks to Big Swig & Hard Swig

Sept. 10, 2021

A Father's Day Roundup of Lagers That Dads Like
A Father's Day Roundup of Lagers That Dads Like
Beermongers weigh in on what wets their most dadly whistles

Eric Puga, June 18, 2021

More by MM Pack
There and Back Again
There and Back Again
NYC chef Tien Ho returns to Austin

April 1, 2016

Speaking Volumes
Speaking Volumes
The secret history of Austin's First Cookbook

March 6, 2015

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle