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Her eyes are just a little cloudy. Her voice is delicate, probably softer than it was many years ago. But start talking about Myla Chaney’s favorite fried chicken, and years drop off her like oil dripping off fresh-out-of-the-fryer drumsticks.
Myla’s daughter, Joy Barchers of Liberty, made a special trip home to Ray County Wednesday to accompany her 93-year-old mother, now residing in Camden, to an invitation-only lunch at Richmond’s new combination Kentucky Fried Chicken and Taco Bell. It’s a premiere “test run” for the store’s staff before they start serving the public next week, but it’s something more special for Myla.
Her taste buds met Colonel Harlan Sander’s enduring 11 herbs and spices “At least 37 years” ago. Since then, Myla, Joy and sister Wanda and Myla’s late husband Leroy made many a trip to the closest KFC restaurants they could, usually in Lexington, Excelsior Springs or Liberty. “I think that’s the first place I ever ate at,” Myla said. “They had it fixed different. Some of ‘em looked more like regular restaurants.”
Wednesday, Myla happily enjoyed a meal of the Colonel’s original recipe chicken – her favorite, neck and neck with the fried fish she used to catch in her younger days, Joy said – and mashed potatoes with gravy in her own backyard, where she and Leroy raised Joy and Wanda. She savored her favorite delicacy with her daughter for about a half hour, with a little relief. This place seems to know what they’re doing, she said.
Her first taste of KFC was of the original recipe, and no matter what else KFC has rolled out, that’s been her favorite old friend.
“This tastes more like what it used to,” Myla said, pleased. “Some places, it don’t taste that good. I like the idea of having the big basket to take on picnics.”
That favorite flavor of fried chicken has followed Myla for a while. She said it’s where she used to celebrate her birthdays. She might love it most for the one thing that walks hand-in-hand with her favorite food: her favorite people on Earth.
“No place else makes it like they do,” Myla said. “Next thing I like best to the chicken is my family.”
The restaurants have changed. They’ve been jazzed up more than the basic red-and-white designs of the first restaurant Myla visited over 30-years-ago. But as long as someone somewhere close by is frying chicken in that magic recipe, part of Myla might stay forever young.
“One of the greatest things in my life,” Myla said. “I can’t see good, can’t get around much, but I sure can eat.”