Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Harland Sanders & KFC

Harland David Sanders was not born a Colonel. The title of Colonel was bestowed upon him in 1935 by then Governor of Kentucky, Ruby Laffoon. But wait a minute. I'm putting the chicken before the KFC here.

First, there was Harland David Sanders who was born on September 9, 1890 in Henryville, Indiana. The "Kentucky Colonel" did not come from a wealthy stock of Kentucky farmers. On the contrary, he came from a poor farming family, his father died when he was five years old, and his mother had to work in a factory. Young Harland dropped out of school after sixth grade. Harland Sanders had his first experience in the kitchen while still at home. Each night he cooked dinner for his family while his mother labored in the factory. She eventually remarried but this too did not afford Harland a better life in his eyes. He ran way from home and pursued many jobs in his early life. He worked as a farm hand, street car conductor, blacksmith's helper, steamboat pilot, insurance salesman, rail yard fireman, and eventually in 1906 he lied about his age and enlisted in the Army. He was 16 years old.

Around 1930, in the midst of the depression, Harland Sanders began serving cooked chicken dishes to people who stopped at his service station in Corbin, Kentucky. Meals were served in the small front lobby of his gas station. It was to be his first restaurant. News of Mr. Sanders tasty chicken soon spread and he had more business than his small service station could handle. He soon opened a motel restaurant across the street and by 1939 Sander's Court & Cafe was listed in Duncan Hines notable travel book, Adventures in Good Eating. 

Over the next decade, Harland Sanders perfected his method of cooking chicken. Around the same time he was developing his “secret recipe of 11- herbs and spices,” Americans were introduced to the world's first commercial pressure cooker by National Presto Industries at the 1939 New York World's Fair. Always looking for ways to make his chicken moist and juicy, Sanders adapted his cooking style to include the use of the pressure cooker and in 1940, the "Original Kentucky Fried Chicken recipe was "hatched." It wasn't long before it was described as Finger lickin’ Good. Use of the pressure cooker had another benefit. It allowed the Colonel" to serve his customers quicker. The pressure cooker would prove to be an invaluable tool in the developing of the KFC franchise business.

For many years, Sander's Court & Cafe did a thriving business. However, things changed after a fire destroyed his cafe and Interstate 75 was built. Sanders was forced to sell his property in order to make way for the Interstate. In 1952, at the age of 62, Harland Sanders supported by his Social Security checks, took to the streets. He traveled across country from restaurant to restaurant cooking batches of chicken and began franchising his method and recipe. His first franchise was sold to Peter Harman.

In 1952, Harland had a chance meeting with a Peter Harman, who owned Harman's Cafe in Salt Lake City, Utah, another popular, and famous eating place.  And Peter was a skilled business man.  As a result of this meeting, a business relationship was established, and Peter convinced Harland to cash in his social security cheques to start a franchise for chickens coated in Harlands recipe.

Soon after this meeting, Harland, with his wife, Claudia started travelling around visiting restaurants.  And if a particular restaurant agreed, he would cook his chicken dish coated with his herb and spices.  Many liked how the chicken was cooked and included it on their menus.  His fee for using the mixture to the restaurants was five cents per chicken that was covered.

The first years of the franchise was a stuggle, and Harland comments on this by saying. "One of our biggest problems getting started was money. After we sold the restaurant at auction, I was getting $105 a month from social security.  That paid for my gas and the travel needed to get the franchises started. Lots of nights I would sleep in the back of my car so I would have enough money to buy cookers the next day if someone took a franchise."

His wife also commented on the business at the time by saying "He helped a lot of people go into the restaurant business. "Sometimes their pies or meats or vegetables wouldn't be just right so he began to show them how to do all of it. He wanted the restaurants that served his chicken to have good food."


Without a doubt, there's a flock of fried chicken recipes grazing the online world. There are those who claim they have a Kentucky Fried Chicken Recipe just like the Colonel's and others who prefer Church's Fried Chicken such as this "copycat" recipe found at The Secret Recipe Blog. I'm more inclined to try Chef Tom's Crispy Crunchy Fried Chicken or the Fancy Fried Chicken & Savory Sweet Potato Waffles @ Cinnamon Spice & Everything Nice. You know me and chicken and waffles:) I'm also tempted to try Maki's Karaage: Japanese-Chinese style fried chicken. It sure looks good and simple enough for even me to try. Actually, there are quite a few fried chicken recipes worthy of National Chicken Month and the Colonel's birthday. I've left a nibble of links below.

As for me, I'm going to share a few recipes from a Kentucky Fried Chicken recipe book which is undated. I don't think it is very old and before you get too excited, it does not include the "secret recipe." I've chosen to scan Mrs. Harland Sander's Refrigerator Rolls and "A Kentucky Speciality," Buttermilk Pie. (Buttermilk Pie topped with blueberries is oh so good!) (click to enlarge)

1. KFC, The Colonel Sanders Story
2. Kentucky Fried Chicken's Humble Beginnings
3. Kentucky Fried Chicken World Tour (cute)
1. 7 Tips for No-Fail Fried Chicken. Because grannies lie.
2. Picnic Fried Chicken
3. Chicken tikka
4. Guiltless Southern Fried Chicken
5. Oven Baked Fried Chicken
6. Fried Chicken Drumsticks
7. Tyler's Ultimate Fried Chicken
8. Fried Chicken in Pressure Cooker
9. LunaCafe’s Spicy Fried Chicken


  1. At an age when most people are thinking about retiring he was still working and actually just getting started all over again.

    American dream? or American way? I see a lot people around here having to start all over again just before retirement.

    Just love your informative posts! And we're KFC fans in this house ;)

  2. I wonder why they always say that KFC is torturing their chickens!

  3. They say "peasant food" is the best!

  4. Such a great idea to double the crockpot recipe and then freeze it. Love it! I worked at KFC for my first job. I ate a chicken strip and biscuit hot out of the oven every day. Those were the days when I ate nonsense like that and it didn't show.

  5. Totally changed my perspective of KFC! LOVE your posts...always a pleasure to read!

  6. He's a fascinating character, isn't he! There's not much about his story I don't like. Most particularly his real focus on providing excellence.

    Thanks for posting all this wonderful information on him, with your beautiful style and in your usual generous fashion, Louise!

  7. I never cared for any of KFC's offerings besides the mashed potatoes and gravy until I visited a KFC in Beijing, of all places. They offer a thigh-meat burger in the Chinese market, and it was a lot more flavorful than the usual breast meat.

  8. Did you read the Pearls before Swine series of comics where one of the crocs was becoming a chicken farmer, dressed in Col. Sanders attire? He was just telling his chickens to hop in the magical bucket. KFC is so iconic, and I don't even try to duplicate it.

    I might, however, give Mrs. Sanders' rolls or pie a try - after I master the pie crust.

  9. KFC is great fried chicken, it's just that not all stores are consistent. I do like the ones in the Philippines, I'm not sure if it's the chicken. Thanks for printing Mrs. Sander's fried chix recipe, even if it is not the secret one. :)

  10. I really enjoy these glimpses into culinary icons - we tend to forget that Col. Sanders was a real person, and not a commercial creation. In fact, he worked to build a business and went through all of the challenges that involves.

  11. I wish I could give you something to thank you for always making my day. You not only encourage me to stay in the kitchen and keep trying, but you give me hope and love in people as well. You are at your computer wherever that is and I am at mine way over here, but I consider you a very good friend no matter the distance or circumstances. Thank you

  12. I used to have my original recipe all the time after school.I was spolied. Im curious to check out these links and try to reproduce someof these fast food chicken recipes. Always informative!

  13. I actually splurged on KFC the other night, Sher. After doing this post, I gained a whole other prospective on the man and the chicken. I "retired" from my first job with much trepidation. (before I was of retirement age:) So glad I did. I now have my own business and all is well. Thanks for stopping, Sher:)

    Gee, Sidney I didn't see that info anywhere. I must admit, I've often wondered about Purdue. No matter what they say!!! It sounds funny but chicken around here is just not what it use to be. I'm laughing as I "speak." Thanks for dropping by...

    Nice to see you duckie. As long as it is clean and comes from a reliable source, there's very few types of food I don't like.

  14. Kasha, Kasha, how are you? Your blog is always a pleasure to visit. I'm just sorry I can't get there more often. I think many teenagers get their first jobs at fast food places. In PA, many retirees work in them too. I've been eating so bad lately. I had KFC just the other night. Try the double crockpot thing when you catch one on sale or at a garage sale. GREAT!!!

    Mine too Sophia, mine to. Thank you so much for stopping. I'm going to be hopping over by you in just a few.

  15. Oh Karen, you are too kind. The "old" Colonel was just that; a most fascinating character. I'm so glad the information was available for gleaning.

    Thank you so much for dropping by and for introducing me to the Network blogging thing. My my, something else to learn:)

  16. Hi Adele, Until I did this post, I had no idea there were KFCs all over the world. They try to adapt their menu to the region they are in which I think is most interesting. The KFC where I live in New York finally got the "baked" chicken on the menu although, the franchise has been "clucking" about it for months!!!

    That sounds hysterical Marjie. I'll have to check with my son to see if he has a copy at his comic book store. It looks like you've mastered the pie crust ordeal. That Orange Pie of yours looks luscious!!!

    That happens a lot with franchises. Too bad because a few messy renditions can mess it up for the others. My KFC just started selling the baked version of KFC. The jury is still out. Thanks for stopping, Veron. I LOVE your new look!!!

    He was indeed extraordinary T.W. and unlike Betty, for REAL!!!

    Hi Kasha, Your words are so sweet. No need to feel like you should give me something. I truly appreciate your visits and comments. The blogosphere does have a genuine way of connecting people. Thank you so much for stopping. It is always a pleasure to see you.

    Hey there Courtney, Let me know if you explore any of those recipes. I can just bet with your tenacity you will whip up some tasty pickens!!! Your recent article on Ebony was more than informative. It was amazing!!!


Through this wide opened gate,
none came too early,
none returned too late.

Thanks for dropping in...Louise