The Big Mood: Popeyes chicken sandwich frenzy

One week, one mood: Moya Lothian-Mclean’s deep-dive into the feel of the week.

Sometimes it feels like there’s no light in the dark. This week, the Amazon burned, the British government was punted aside by an over-promoted rubber bath toy,” as Hugh Grant put it, and the world watched as demonstrators fighting for democracy in Hong Kong were answered with the blast of a giant water cannon.

Yet sandwiched in the midst of all the gloom was a tasty little reminder that joy could still be found – squashed between two buns and coated with a lil sauce. I refer to, of course, the Popeyes (Spicy) Chicken Sandwich. For those who haven’t been following the saga, two weeks ago the American fried chicken chain launched a new sandwich: battered chicken, pickles and sauce on a brioche bun. And our US cousins went clucking mad for it (The New Yorker even said it was here to save America”).

At first, it brought light and laughter to both those who managed to get their hands on one, despite hour-long waits, as well as everyone else on social media who helped elevate what is essentially a chicken strip sandwich to icon status. 

Two weeks on though, this too is ruined. As always, we (and by we” I mean, people in America) took it too far. This is why we can’t have nice things, or deep-fried things, or anything that could brighten up a grey day just a little. Because someone always jumps on the counter, demanding Szechuan sauce or tries to hawk a CHICKEN SANDWICH on eBay for $7000, or abuses fast-food workers on minimum wage who have been forced to work extended shifts to meet demand so people can snap a picture for Instagram. 

There is something in the human psyche, a primal urge to overindulge and push to the extreme. When I was 16, I discovered chocolate brioche. Delicious, continental, a lovely treat to have for breakfast occasionally. Except I ate two brioche for breakfast every day for the next 24 months, until the brioche tasted like metal in my mouth and made me retch. I repeated this trick with porridge and those funny little Nature Valley bars over the next four years. Why? Because I never learn, and neither do any of you. 

When we enjoy something, we tend to just go hell for leather. Willpower? I don’t know her! Delayed gratification? A drag! The trick is repeated even when a situation is far from enjoyable, when in fact it is dire — there’s still that niggling little itch within humanity to see how much worse it can really get, to push the big red button and, oh, I don’t know, prorogue the government or reignite centuries’ old war.

Popeyes is now out of the sandwich, for the foreseeable future, amid reports that people were buying them up en masse to sell on for higher prices which is too meta late capitalism for words and also, gross. Well done everyone on the collective loss of dignity, empathy and sense – all for the want of a sandwich. Big. Mood.


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