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The Double Downer

The bag came soaked in grease and heavy, as if there was a loaded Glock 19 tucked in with the small order of potato wedges.

This is fitting, I thought while handing the KFC drive-up window girl my debit card, on the day I have decided to commit culinary suicide.

By now you must have heard about the Double Down, KFC's newest assault on America's eating class. The sandwich features strips of bacon, cheese and the Colonel's special sauce pressed between two boneless chicken fillets.

What's missing, you might ask? Bread, maybe?

Forget it. Bread is for the weak. This thing is a man-killing meatwich, baby — and if you can't take it, head to Subway with the other pansies.

Let's do the math. According to every Web site I consulted before making my fateful trip to KFC to tackle this monster, the Double Down packs 540 calories, 1,300 milligrams of sodium and 32 grams of saturated fat into one steaming pile of gastronomic hell.

To be fair, the Downer stacks up well against Mickey D's Big Mac and Burger King's Whopper in the health column. The Mac and the Whopper both pack a similar 550-calorie wallop with nearly the same toxic level of saturated fat.

Problem is, neither the Big Mac nor the Whopper taste like a bar burger soaked for a week in the pickled egg jar.

Despite the threat of pain and death, I was intrigued by the first Downer ad I saw. Was this our country's first willing step toward oblivion? At what point as a nation do you throw in the towel and chase that grease dragon all the way down the drain?

The first thing you need to know about the Downer is that it's not as big as it looks on television. I felt no small bit of relief when the KFC girl handed mine over and it wasn't the diameter of a football.

I laughed at the sadistic drive-thru machine as it tried to prod me into king-sizing the order with a 5-gallon bucket of Pepsi and a shipping crate of potato wedges.

Not this time, machine. Back to hell with you, I thought. I ordered the combo anyway because I will not turn away practically free food.

The machine asked if I wanted the grilled chicken version of the Downer or the Colonel's original. For a minute I considered opting for the grilled meatwich to shave a few calories off the monstrosity.

I decided to go deep fried. If I was going to do this, I was going to man up and do my father proud.

I returned to the newsroom with my haul, not looking forward to the task at hand. But plow through each and every gram of fat I did.

The first bite wasn't all that bad. Honestly, I can dig the flavor of fried chicken slathered in cheese and bacon. Who can't?

As I sawed through to the heart of the beast, however, the Downer began to take its toll. It wasn't so much the cheese and grease, but the massive intake of salt that did me in for the night. That 1,3000 milligrams of sodium does a number on your mouth and throat. I had to pound most of a Pepsi to keep my air passage from closing.

The KFC brain trust thought it was a keen idea to wrap the Downer in a paper mitt to keep it from falling apart in your hand. The paper allows you to maintain a hold on the thing, lest the grease allow it to slip from your grasp like a well-oiled water balloon.

But by the time you reach the half-way point, the grease and special sauce have caused the paper molecules to implode, making the mitt useless.

I fought through to the very end. I am writing this approximately one hour after tossing the empty KFC bag in the trash.

A lot has been written in the past week — mostly by elitist bloggers who decry the immorality of KFC for foisting this bad boy on unsuspecting small-town America — about how the Downer is another contributor to this country's obesity problem.

There's something to that, for sure. But my social libertarian leanings can't help but think KFC is not forcing Ma and Pa Lardface to drop $6.99 on a Downer in lieu of a tofu stir fry, so what is gained by demonizing the company?

KFC is just banking on the bad choices of a culture that has accepted gluttony as a virtue.

Cynical? Sure. Evil and manipulative? Hardly.

Regardless, I won't be putting myself through a Downer again. This lump in my guts isn't going away anytime soon. But I made my decision, and I'm going to live with it for the next 12 to 15 hours.

As I wrote that last sentence my large intestine spasmed violently. It's going to be a long, brutal night.

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471; or e-mail cconrad@mailtribune.com.