In Praise of Long John Silver’s Krums
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.