Going to Weyburn, Saskatchewan is like a warm embrace from an overly religious auntie and brushing up against a batch of her skin tags. It's weird, but sometimes you have to do it. My Weyburn calling came in the form of rumours that an infamous KFC buffet, one of the only ones left in Canada, might be ending due to a decree from the chicken lords high upon the KFC corporate chain. My world exploded at the news that one of Colonel Sanders' most beautiful creations in Weyburn could be next on the buffet chopping block. From magazine-of-record Macleans to Premier Brad Wall, everyone had something to say about the buffet. The company issued a statement the buffet would remain open, but didn't say for how long.
Last week, there was a kind of sit-in eat-fest/artery-explosion suicide pact as hundreds flocked from across this country to the rural KFC to protest the rumoured murder of the buffet. Obviously, I had to go there for VICE and embed myself with the locals for a deep investigation. I decided to spend eight hours in the KFC and eat from the buffet for breakfast, lunch, and dinner plus snacks. I had a lot of support for my KFC marathon from family and friends in Regina.
I got there right as the place opened at 10 AM. The staff were surprised I wanted to stay all day, but a nice lady, Debbie—according to the name listed on my receipt—rang me up and said I could stay as long as I wanted. For only $10.50, KFC would let me hate-bang my arteries with fried chicken until closing time.
As I set in on the legendary buffet bountiful with steaming potatoes, corn, gravy, fries and classic fried chicken, the first cohort of locals entered. One man from the group of four decried his wonder that the "Regina people" would be coming today. A cashier named Irene responded, "That's right. I have a gut feeling the Regina people are coming and that's good. We'll prove our point."
Irene's point—Weyburn's point—is keeping their buffet open is a matter of regional pride. She told me without any irony, "This is ours. This is for the people." Irene is a glowing woman. She's perfect. When I told her I was writing a story for VICE she said I was doing god's work.
Every time someone walked through the door, Irene would say to them, "I need you. This is important," encouraging (demanding) everyone go online to complete a survey about the buffet. She pronounced the word as, "boof-eh."
"We're going all the way," she said, "Why can the US have boof-ehs and we can't?" Irene is Weyburn's only hope.
Families were taking photos together in front of the food.
Intake Update: Three chicken thighs and fries (1,164 calories)
After breakfast, I had a slight headache and was perspiring. It was 11:32 AM. I saw some quality cheese sauce on the buffet line and I considered smothering a plate full of chicken in it. This was a totally insane thought. There were moments between plates when the din of the place and the onset of gastric pressure took me to a dark place, mentally.
A family posing for photos in front of the buffet delighted that this KFC was "the one on the news." A motherly figure conspired there was a "buffet crackdown," at which another woman lamented, "That's not fair." Irene, maybe sensing my growing fear patted me on the shoulder while passing my booth and asked, "How you doing?"
"Good, Irene. I'm good." I loaded up a plate of chicken and cheese sauce, embracing my journey into the heart of dark meat darkness.
Intake Update: Seven chicken thighs, cheese sauce and fries (2,439 calories)
I took a moment to dry heave a few times in the washroom for a reason 100 percent unrelated to this story. A guy knocked on the door and asked, "Is someone in there?" Maybe I picked a bad day for this. I suddenly felt older, alone. I heard Irene shout, "We're Canadians!" as part of her boof-eh speech from the register and felt reinvigorated. I was going to save this town. I was thirsty as I walked back to my booth littered with crumpled napkins and forgotten bones.
The staff gave me a cup for free water—I don't drink pop because pop is bad for you. I couldn't find the water fountain, so I went to the buffet to get some of their famous pierogies. This KFC was extra special because, as I heard, they have pierogies. The potato or cheese-filled dumplings are a staple of the Saskatchewan diet. They remind me of childhood. Just what I needed at that moment.
That's when I realized there were no pierogies. Maybe the gang of old women sitting near the buffet devoured them before I had a chance. I stood around waiting for my doughy reward. A KFC employee came with a refill tray and I politely inquired about the missing dumplings. She told me, "We don't have pierogies anymore." I assumed she meant they were out today and Irene, Our Holy Mother, was making a batch. But that's when I learned the dark truth: Weyburn's KFC doesn't serve pierogies, at all.
As I tried to comes to grips with the reality of my situation, I overheard a senior citizen ask a manager about the pierogies. The manager told her they don't have them anymore. The pierogies, as well as a number of other items like pudding, broccoli, and two kinds of hot desserts, were discontinued. After this shock, I needed answers.
I did some digging, and an off-the-record source told me the corporate KFC empire forced the small town community centre to take pierogies—the aforementioned staple of the Saskatchewan diet, in fact, the starchy embodiment of us as a people—off the menu in 2012.
How could this happen? My source cited food safety reasons, but that seemed bogus. No one has ever become sick from KFC, I assume.
Later, I asked Irene about the pierogies and she said, it was just another corporate tactic "to shut down the boof-eh." In defiance of her overlords, she waved to the trays of chicken, saying, "Sup-riiiiiise!"
How could this KFC have the blessing of Premier Brad Wall, future prime minister of Canada, who tweeted his support of the boof-eh? Did he know about the lack of pierogies? Did he know about Irene?
I had lost my appetite. It was 1:15 PM.
Intake Update: Eight chicken thighs, cheese sauce, and two plates of fries (3,023 calories)
I could barely finish my eighth piece of chicken with cheese sauce. I think I felt sick because of the whole pierogi situation. I found myself gagging as families blissfully stuffed their faces with fatty meat covered in a warm blanket of 11 secret herbs and spices.
My headache was on full blast and my armpits were drenched by my own reek as a nearby baby crooned along to Ariana Grande's "Dangerous Woman" playing through iPad speakers.
I thought about how life is a lot like Weyburn: We're all just here for the chicken, and everything else is absurd.
I couldn't make it to supper time, I realized. I had to stop. Then I discovered they have hot sauce behind the counter. I love hot sauce on fried chicken. I put on my headphones, cued up some Danny Brown, and went to that fucking food table for some chicken.
Total Intake: Ten pieces of chicken, cheese sauce, and two plates of fries (3,897 calories)
It was 5:45 PM when I finished supper. I was free. After several bouts of explosive diarrhea within the chicken shop, I bid Irene a fond farewell. She thanked me for being there. I knew in my heart, I helped her cause and the people of Weyburn. Admittedly, I would miss them. When I got back to my home city of Regina, I felt a pang of sadness as I pulled into a soulless KFC drive-thru for a late-night snack.
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