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In Praise of Long John Silver’s Krums

7 September 2010 Stories and Appreciations 43,456 views 19 CommentsPrint This Post Print This Post Email This Post Email This Post

My earliest visits to Long John Silver’s occurred when the seafood shoppe still celebrated the savage pirate lifestyle, and stood free of symbiotic Taco Bells and KFCs. In its glory days joys lurked around Long John Silver’s every lantern-lit corner: kid’s meals were served in die cut pirate ships, children were each granted a “doubloon” that could be redeemed in a trinket vending machine shaped like a treasure chest, and the dining area was a perfect re-creation of the dank hull of a buccaneer’s vessel. Sadly, they have abandoned their marauding namesake in favor of a corporate identity more akin to a water park.

One of the bygone features that I miss most is the bank of food warmers that were positioned along the waiting line. They had glass windows that allowed customers to see the feast that awaited them. I would ask my dad to lift me up so that I could feel the warmth on my cheeks and bask in the golden-brown glow of batter-dipped goodness. From this vantage point I could also covet the mountains of Krums.

At the time I simply knew them as the delicious crunchy things that lined the basket of Chicken Planks®. Krums are the fried pieces of excess batter that drip or break off of the “real” food. These were in such demand among my family that our first course of action was always to divvy them equally. As we took part in this tedious process we resembled a table of jewelers.

Over time we felt like the restaurant was growing stingy with the golden nuggets, until finally on one momentous visit we reached for the Krums and found nothing but crumbs. My mother, who has never been afraid to let the service know exactly what it takes to serve her, announced that she was going to simply walk up and ask for more “crunchy things.” This just felt wrong, so we waited nervously until she returned— bearing two trays overflowing with pebble-like batter! It was more than we had ever had access to at one time. But that’s not all. I asked about the price—there was no charge. Yes, somehow the best part of the meal was free! This was a deep-fried revelation.

From then on we asked for extra “little crunchy things” when we placed our order. The crew never hesitated, and seemed to know what we wanted before we were done describing them. For a brief period they cost twenty-five cents per tray, but this policy was short-lived. I always wondered if there was some law against charging for what is essentially a byproduct.

People refer to this delicacy by many names: Crunchies, Crispies, Excess Batter, and so on. Well, once when I was still a lad I requested some “crunchy things,” but this time I noticed that the clerk marked an item on her order form. I examined the slip and saw the word “Krums” with a “K” next to a checkbox. They had an official name! I’ve used it ever since, thus achieving ultimate efficiency. (Incidentally, Krums have many monikers among the kids on the streets: Dragon Pellets, Gravel, Travoltas, and the Devil’s Grape Nuts.)

When I was in high school I spread the word about these cost effective meal enhancers. My wisdom was met with both gratitude and mockery. One afternoon a friend dared me to order nothing but Krums and a free glass of water, just to see if they’d allow it. I did and so did they.

This flourished into legend, and though it happened but once I occasionally encounter alumni who remind me that I’m the guy who ordered Crunchies and water — every day. When I became of legal age to own a Fry Daddy deep fat fryer I set out to make homemade Krums. I simply poured store-bought seafood batter mix in the basket and shook it over the hot oil. They tasted almost exactly like the real thing except that no foreign flavors were present and they were nowhere near as salty. I’ve only made them once, but I’ll bet rumor has it that I do it every day.

I believe that every Krum glutton can pinpoint the moment they realized they are not alone. For me, it was seeing them on that order form. For some, that moment is now. Welcome fellow Krum bum. You needn’t be ashamed. Granted, you will be judged, but it’s not your fault. They are irresistible. I’ll ring the bell, because you’ve done well.

- Kirk Demarais

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19 Comments »

  1. I love this post! It is an excellent recreation of my family’s experience as well. I will simply add that you know that hot window you describe, where you can see the Krums right at eye level as kid? My sister and I loved it when some pirate server would scoop up some fish and krums with a spatula-type thing (apparently you had to keep the krums moving) and sling it all against the window, leaving a slo-mo trail of grease on the glass. Realizing you could just order the krums was better than just about anything in food-ville for us. It was decadent and crazy. We will probably have shorter lives for having done so, but they will be better lives. Krums forever! (and yeah, dammit, bring back the pirate hats………..)

  2. There is something poetic and beautiful about grease behind glass. It’s half the appeal of Krispy Kreme!

  3. You can get Tanuki Udon in Japan, which is basically a bowl of noodles and broth topped with tempura krums. Mmmmm.

  4. Krums?! Amazing — yeah, we always ordered “extra crispies” with our Long John Silvers.

    I totally remember the pirate-ship containers!

  5. My dad would take me to LJS when I was a kiddo. We loved the crunchies. Here in the UK, they are called ‘scraps’.

  6. Those things are so delicious. Mmm, I miss their hushpuppies, too.

  7. Wow…thank you so much for reminding me about the doubloons! LJS was my favorite restaurant as a kid for the same reasons you list here. Many kudos to my Mother who also had the audacity to go and request a paper tray of Krums. We couldn’t get enough of them. The Youtube video perfectly captures the EXACT look of the LJS we always visited as a kid. Great article!!!

  8. Kirk,
    You write about what I want to read about. More, please!

  9. “Devil’s Grape Nuts” haha. Laughed out loud for reals.

  10. Kirk, my families sorted history with krums is almost exactly the same. My mother also bravely went up and demanded more one day, and then with every return trip.

    My wife didn’t believe me when I first took her to LJS, but I proudly went up and very similarly was greeted with a basket full of the golden delicious heart-palpatating death bits. They charged me though, but I found that at least they were sort of “on the menu” now as they had a line on the receipt…

  11. I remember thinking that they were the “chips” in an order of fish & chips!

  12. Love it! We always asked for more “crunchies”!

    Question; does anyone remember the other kid’s meal names? I think there were only 3, but my favorite was the Billy Boneless.

  13. Elizabeth- Ha, I wonder if the grease trails were one of the reasons they did away with that set up. I do remember the Krums piling up, nearly to the top in the corners. Glad you enjoyed the article!

    David- Exactly! I still long to drink from Krispy Kreme’s endless waterfall of glaze.

    Foxy- Having wikipedia’d “tempura” I can say I heartily approve. Using them to season other dishes is the final frontier for me. Surely somebody has tried them on tacos from the adjoining Taco Bell.

    Chris- I would pay dearly for one of those pirate ships. I took them home and played with them until they collapsed. The fact that they were coated in grease didn’t help.

    Hope- Scraps! I love it!! Thank you for that valuable bit of rare information. It’s also comforting to know they are available in the UK.

    Betsy- I so wish I could get into the Hushpuppies. I always end up giving mine away.

    Jody- Thanks! if you want to SEE the doubloons then have a look here…
    http://www.secretfunspot.com/doubloons.jpg
    (image found on an ebay auction) I used to hold on to mine throughout the meal and study them. I was tempted to keep them, but I just couldn’t resist the allure of the trinkets (which I still have, though I’m not sure I remember which ones came from LJs as opposed to other machines.)

    Matthew- Thank you! I could easily write another thousand words about Krums in particular. There were so many Krum thoughts and moments that I self-edited including the time a friend/employee gave me two carry-out bags full of them.

    Shawn- This charging for Krums is a disturbing development. I certainly hope it is due to a greedy franchise owner in your area. I’ve recently sampled Krums from several other locations across the nation and I am happy to report that they were all free. An uprising is recommended.

    Foulard- Yes, yes! I wondered the same thing.

    Scott- Boy, I sure don’t. But I would like to know. I know that they had chicken drumsticks that were called Peg-legs. I like that they still use the name Chicken Planks since it’s a throwback to the pirate era.

    The question I’ve always had: Are the equivalent of Krums available at Captain D’s??

  14. Captain D’s does offer the Krums equivalent. But I’ve always heard them called “cracklins”. That might have more to do with the fact that I live in Georgia more than the actual name of the Krum-Kousins. Though apparently the story of the mother asking for a tray full of them is universal as my mother did the same thing when I was younger and my sister and I fought over them non-stop. Last time I checked though, they were charging an outrageous $1.09.

  15. My father managed the LJS when I was a kid. I remember watching a very silly video of his which taught you exactly how to make these. You would be suprised how many people come in and just order a box of the crumbles!

  16. Kira- Thanks for answering a lifelong mystery! Now I want to compare the two places.
    I hope this charging is limited to Georgia. That happens to be where Shawn (who commented above) is from too. Truth is, I would obviously pay for them, but I really would expect a larger tray with top quality Krums. Sheesh, a dollar can almost buy a Chicken Plank.
    (And God bless moms.)

    Linda- No way!!! I had no idea that they EVER intentionally made them. Now I have a new mission: to find that video! Thank you for this most shocking revelation!

  17. I worked at LJS for three years. Krums with ranch dressing was VERY popular with skinny teenage girls. Guess they were craving grease & fat. The crumbs ate not just by products. A few times per day, we’d take our Krums cup and make extras. The cup was a platic cup with holes in the bottom. The best Krums were when we poured in too much batter & it would clump up into a big piece. Soft on the inside, crunchy on the outside.

    The purpose of Krums was to absorb excess grease & to keep fried food from getting soggy.

  18. Sylkozakur- This is eye opening!! So not only are they made on purpose, they serve a purpose. No wonder they’re so tasty, they’re little grease sponges! It all makes sense now that I really think about it. Of course there wouldn’t be that much excess batter, how sloppy would they have to be to produce that much?

    I like the big ones (of course) but I favor the little ones. It’s just the right texture for me. But to taste their best, they all have to be fresh. Old Krums are just bad. The tell tale sign is if they are too dark in color.

    I’m not a dressing guy so I wouldn’t be into the Ranch, but that’s interesting nonetheless. I like to dip my Chicken Planks in Krums verses ketchup or that horrific rum vinegar.

    Love the factoid about the skinny girls. Teenage boys pay attention, this could dramatically reduce the cost of a date!

    Wow, with all that I have learned I wish I could rewrite the whole article.

  19. Wow Kirk, Thanks again for writing the article. The comments are scarily enlightening on this whole phenomena of the unlikely snack favorite! I might have to break my moratorium on LJS and seek out some krums…

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