I’d drive 130 miles for a McNugget
January 19, 2016
When Chicken McNuggets came on the scene in the early '80s, the nearest place we could get them was Grand Junction. Hey, no problem. I had a brand-new Toyota Tercel, my first new car (cost: $3,000), I was in the mother of all midlife crises, and my friend Richard and I would drive off to Grand Junk as if it were just across the street.
We soon learned that fast food doesn't travel well. After buying eight or 10 cartons of McNuggets to keep us well supplied back in nugget-free Aspen, the car reeked of rancid oil and chicken parts and the nuggets themselves were inedible.
This meant more frequent trips to Nugget Junction before we satiated ourselves and kicked the habit.
I wasn't a big customer of our local McDonald's, but I still like a McNugget or a burger and fries now and then, and I was sorry to hear that it had closed. We shouldn't have been surprised because that slice of prime real estate must have cost a whole lot of Big Macs.
My first job in Aspen was in the McDonald building, which then housed Aspen Skiing Co.'s ticket office. I was secretary to Buzz Bainbridge, Curt Chase and Jim Snobble, who were downstairs, while Darcy Brown and the business offices were upstairs.
A young David Hiser was on the slopes taking publicity photos of tourists, which I would send out to their local newspapers as one of my daily duties. My daughter Hillery, was born in mid-May conveniently right after we closed for the offseason. Those were the especially good old food days, with Delice Bakery a block away.
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The franchise I'd like to see back in town is Kentucky Fried Chicken. There used to be one in Aspen Square run by what appeared to be a handful of 12-year-old kids. You could die of starvation in that place — it was the slowest fast-food outlet on the planet and soon vanished, only to reappear (with a different owner, I think) in the Local Spirits liquor-store location.
Then the Aspen Times employees, almost across the street, were in chicken heaven and quickly learned enough about the operation to show up just as a new batch was coming out of the fryer.
I was a Kentucky Fried junkie.
It sold a special cut called a "keel," which was breast meat including the tenderloin — it cost a little bit more, but it was well worth it. That got taken off the menu. Maybe it was so well worth it that everybody stopped buying the regular breasts — who knows? This was a major blow because to me there were few lunches better than a tub of KFC coleslaw and a keel fresh out of the fat.
This was all before the corporation tried to take the "F" word out of the company name by calling it "KFC." Have you noticed that "Fried" has started creeping back into its advertising? And lard is the new oil? You've got to love that pendulum.
The town was in mourning when Kentucky Fried Chicken got scratched, and I imagine that there are going to be a lot of Egg McMuffin-missing sad faces and long drives to Glenwood.
We need a little underground fast-food mall; Lord knows we have enough mining tunnels down there to put it in. A McDonald's, a Kentucky Fried, a White Castle and a Nedick's stand would suit me perfectly.
It could go out at the airport, but it might contrast too sharply with the high-end advertising displays. Talk about disgusting — get rid of those nasty things before you expand.
Su Lum is a longtime local who appreciated the McDonald's low-key Golden Arches. Her column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.