The Colonel’s Surprise

November 14th, 2011 by Harrumpher Leave a reply »

Not the Dead Sea Scrolls, but the cookbook that Harland Sanders left may be useful and amusing. A.k.a. Colonel Sanders, founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken, he hand typed 200 pages of his favorite country foods, replete with anecdotes. That manuscript recently appeared in Yum! Brands files. Word from the company is that they’ll make the book available online.

Photo Note: I claim fair use of this crop of a Stars & Stripes pic of Harland Sanders. There seems to be no known public-domain images of him and this appears adapted and to illustrate him, with credit.


It’s certain without seeing the work that his recipes will be more authentic and tasty than what the KFC chain serves. It’s had three owners since he sold his interest in 1964. Along the way, the chicken allegedly has kept its secret 11 herbs and spices he specified, but little else.

The company may withhold some of the book’s recipes and is testing some now. Among the personal snippets it revealed was his two life rules — Do all you can and do it the best you can. It’s the only way you ever get that feeling of accomplishing something.

The only time I ever chatted with him was by phone the year before he died, 1980. I was doing an article for American Management Association’s Management Review maggy on the ramifications of when the CEO has celebrity status, which was pretty uncommon at the time. I don’t think I ended up using any of his material, but I found him charming.

First of all, he’d have none of the celebrity thing and second, he had nothing to do with the company’s board or other management in a long time. He was delightfully humble, admitting to being the founder of the giant franchise operation, but referring to himself as “just a chicken plucker.” He had run gas stations, frying chicken to supplement that, and considered himself still a country boy.

As he said to others, he was not happy with that the subsequent owners did to all the side dishes that would make a Southern meal out of just fried chicken. He had particular criticism for the new versions of his mashed potatoes and gravy. He said the result tasted “like wallpaper paste.”

I’ll be checking the Yum! site. What would the Colonel eat…and cook?


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