From Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben to the Jolly Green Giant and Ronald McDonald, corporate icons sell billions of dollars' worth of products. But only one of them was ever a real person-Colonel Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken/KFC. From a 1930s roadside café in Corbin, Kentucky, Harland Sanders launched a fried chicken business that now circles the globe, serving "finger lickin' good" chicken to more than twelve million people every day. But to get there, he had to give up control of his company and even his own image, becoming a mere symbol to people today who don't know that Colonel Sanders was a very real human being. This book tells his story-the story of a dirt-poor striver with unlimited ambition who personified the American Dream. Acclaimed cultural historian Josh Ozersky defines the American Dream as being able to transcend your roots and create yourself as you see fit. Harland Sanders did exactly that. Forced at age ten to go to work to help support his widowed mother and sisters, he failed at job after job until he went into business for himself as a gas station/café/motel owner and finally achieved a comfortable, middle-class life. But then the interstate bypassed his business and, at sixty-five, Sanders went broke again. Packing his car with a pressure cooker and his secret blend of eleven herbs and spices, he began peddling the recipe for "Colonel Sanders' Kentucky Fried Chicken" to small-town diners in exchange for a nickel for each chicken they sold. Ozersky traces the rise of Kentucky Fried Chicken from this unlikely beginning, telling the dramatic story of Sanders' self-transformation into "The Colonel," his truculent relationship with KFC management as their often-disregarded goodwill ambassador, and his equally turbulent afterlife as the world's most recognizable commercial icon.
What do Americans think of when they think of the hamburger? A robust, succulent spheroid of fresh ground beef, the birthright of red-blooded citizens? Or a Styrofoam-shrouded Big Mac, mass-produced to industrial specifications and served by wage slaves to an obese, brainwashed population? Is it cooking or commodity? An icon of freedom or the quintessence of conformity? This fast-paced and entertaining book unfolds the immense significance of the hamburger as an American icon. Josh Ozersky shows how the history of the burger is entwined with American business and culture and, unexpectedly, how the burger's story is in many ways the story of the country that invented (and reinvented) it. Spanning the years from the nineteenth century with its waves of European immigrants to our own era of globalization, the book recounts how German "hamburg steak" evolved into hamburgers for the rising class of urban factory workers and how the innovations of the White Castle System and the McDonald's Corporation turned the burger into the Model T of fast food. The hamburger played an important role in America's transformation into a mobile, suburban culture, and today, America's favorite sandwich is nothing short of an irrepressible economic and cultural force. How this all happened, and why, is a remarkable story, told here with insight, humor, and gusto.
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