KFC, linchpin of Israel-U.S. relations

In 1997, as a U.S. high schooler on his first trip to Israel, I made it a top priority to sample all the kosher versions of America’s great fast-food eateries, from which I had begun to withdraw back home as my Jewish identity awakened and I took on more of our dietary restrictions. I would visit Burger King and Pizza Hut, for sure, but there was a special place in my heart—stomach, really—for Kentucky Fried Chicken.

In my hierarchy of fast food, burgers and pizza were humdrum. I can make a hamburger at home. We order pizza every week. But a fried chicken dinner? That was something special, even if it was mass-produced and packed in a bucket.

So, of course, I was delighted to see yesterday’s news of KFC’s upcoming return to Israel, with an expected 100 branches opening across the country over five years.

Given the restaurant’s name, it is no surprise that most people tend to focus on the chicken, and recent reports are no exception:

This time the global company will also be required to make adjustments at the product level, because one of the reasons for its failures was that the coating of the batter did not stick to the chicken that underwent the salting process for kashrut purposes.

But my 16-year-old mind had far more to anticipate: the mashed potatoes… the gravy… the biscuits—oh, the biscuits!

That summer, the moment arrived. I don’t recall the exact location, only that I was in the lower level of a mall somewhere, and there it was. I approached the KFC counter with anticipation, checking my wallet that I had enough cash to truly indulge.

And then, the menu.

No mashed potatoes.

No gravy.

Not a biscuit in sight.

Instead—french fries? A roll? I ordered some chicken, but the rest of my memory is a disappointing blur.

Today, no thanks to that meal, my children live in a kosher home, so Israel is their only hope for a taste of the modern normalcy that is fast food. If any potential KFC franchisees out there see this, please listen to a hungry father’s plea: get the chicken recipe right, for sure, but, for the sake of Israel-U.S. relations, do not forget the fixin’s!

About the Author
I am a software designer, amateur kosher cheesemaker, and father of three. I live outside Boston. I care deeply about Israeli and American civil society, Jewish unity, and using food to bring people together.
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