This Is Why Colonel Sanders Couldn't Stand KFC

Harland Sanders sold Kentucky Fried Chicken for two million dollars in 1964 (via Food and Wine). Six years later, he was a living mascot for the company, clocking 200,000 miles a year and appearing in commercials, parades, and festivals to promote KFC. He did so in his iconic all-white suit accented with a black string tie (via the New Yorker). New Yorker journalist William Whitworth said of the six-foot-tall man, "Even when he is not angry and red in the face, the Colonel is a striking figure."

Even the FBI considered him to be an "internationally well-known figure." The agency had started a (now heavily redacted) file on him. This included a birthday invitation from Sanders to the then-FBI director, J Edgar Hoover. Needless to say, Colonel Sanders had come a long way from the man he was in the 1930s when he started gaining recognition for the pan-fried chicken, country ham, string beans, and hot biscuits that he sold to interstate travelers from his Kentucky gas station. He was successful, no doubt because he was a perfectionist. Whitworth imagined Sanders dreaming of delicious fried chicken that not only made mouths water but could make grown men's eyes well up with tears.

The KFCs Sanders visited on his country tours didn't live up to his standards.  

Colonel Sanders thought KFC's gravy was "wallpaper paste"

Colonel Sanders was concerned with the quality of KFC's chicken and railed against an altered version of it, which he described as a "fried doughball stuck on some chicken." He was obsessed, however, with making gravy so delicious that, as Whitworth quoted Sanders, "it'll make you throw away the durn chicken and just eat the gravy." And somewhere between the time that Sanders sold KFC and the 1970s, KFC franchisees changed the recipe. Why? "You had to be a Rhodes Scholar to cook it," said a company executive. It was a constant source of contention between the company and Sanders. 

The Colonel soon became infamous for testing franchises' gravy while traveling and hitting furniture with his cane to express his disgust. In 1978, Sanders told a Kentucky newspaper reporter (via Leagle), "My God, that gravy is horrible. They buy tap water for 15 to 20 cents a thousand gallons and then they mix it with flour and starch and end up with pure wallpaper paste. And I know wallpaper paste, by God, because I've seen my mother make it." This "wallpaper paste" was combined with "sludge," he added. "There's no nutrition in it and they ought not to be allowed to sell it." 

The comments angered a local KFC franchise so much, that they sued him for libel. They lost, succeeding only in exposing which KFC location he was complaining about (via the New York Times).