Fast Food Monstrosities: Why Would Someone Eat a 1400 Calorie Sandwich?
This article was reprinted from The Faster Times. Faster. Smarter. Funnier: Go to TheFasterTimes.com for the latest in News, Politics, Science, Arts, Health, Nonsense, and everything else.
Some weeks ago, I was startled by a surging news item that I thought couldn’t possibly be real. There was this video -- a YouTube video, in fact, and we all know how reliable those tend to be -- that someone took of a television advertisement. It’s grainy and the sound is high-pitched and tinny, but still, there it was: If this ad was to be believed, Kentucky Fried Chicken was now going to sell a bacon and cheese sandwich that featured two thick slabs of fried chicken instead of bread. They call it the “Double Down.” I assumed the name to be a playful take on what happens to your lifespan after eating one of these monstrosities. It was outrageous. It was hilarious. It couldn’t honestly be real…could it? I was dubious, but then again, this is KFC we’re talking about here. This is the same restaurant chain that comic Patton Oswalt scathingly lampooned, likening their most popular dish -- a tub filled with seemingly every KFC menu item covered in cheese and gravy -- to a “failure pile in a sadness bowl.” But a bowl of food I can understand, if not order for myself. A mountainous double fistful of fried chicken, bacon, cheese and sauce, on the other hand, seemed so egregious as to defy human comprehension.
I was convinced that this must be some sort of comedic hoax. After all, it wasn’t long ago that we saw Saturday Night Live’s introduction of the “pizza crepe pancake taco chili bag” at the fictitious Taco Town. Even closer to the bone was Tracy Morgan’s character on 30 Rock attempting to make some quick product endorsement cash by hawking the Tracy Jordan Meat Machine, a Foreman Grill-type appliance that melts any three meats together into “one delicious food ball,” assuring that you won’t ever again “have to suffer through the bread portion of your meal.” Of course the Double Down, like the Meat Machine, was a goof. Or could this actually be one of the most spectacular moments ever of life imitating art? Either way, something crazy and maybe a little unsettling was going on here.
Then came the confirmation. The KFC Double Down was being test marketed in two American cities: Omaha, Nebraska and Providence, Rhode Island. It was real! Depending on your point of view, we had finally reached either the apex or the nadir of fast food. I know there are more than a few people out there, much like the three (athletic and trim for some reason) hungry guys in KFC’s ad that have just been waiting for someone to unleash a twelve hundred calorie fried chicken nuclear weapon unto the American masses, but I got the feeling that somewhere, in a cemetery in Louisville, Kentucky, Colonel Harland Sanders was spinning in his grave like a dervish on meth.
Please note: I’m not naive. We’ve all known for a long time, much before Super Size Me gave us Morgan Spurlock nearing liver failure because of an all McDonald’s diet, that fast food isn’t particularly good for one’s health. And I’m not going after eateries either for sophisticated culinary maximalism, or for the kind of crazily ambitious food architecture that wins you a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records (like this recent addition). Those are separate subjects, entirely.
What I’m talking about is the shift, in recent years, whereby the big fast food chains have begun inventing, marketing and promoting bigger, badder and more insanely calorific sandwiches than at any point in American history. It’s kind of like a Cold War arms race, only instead of intercontinental ballistic missiles, we have sandwiches with enough caloric content to nourish the entire population of a modest-sized, mid-Pacific archipelago. When Ray Croc opened his first McDonald’s hamburger restaurant (and for many years after), the signature hamburger was the size of the one we still see on the menu today, which seems ludicrously tiny compared to its brontosaurus-sized cousins, notably the double quarter pounder with cheese, weighing in at a beastly 730 calories, whereas the original burger, even with cheese, clocks in at a skimpy 310. And that, friends, is nothing compared to the BK Quad Stacker, Wendy’s Classic Triple with Cheese, or the infamous Hardee’s Monster Thickburger. Forget food porn; this is food weaponry.
My question, seeing this insane exercise in hamburger escalation, is: What the hell is wrong with us? In no other country, on any other part of the planet, will you find such egregious stockpiling of low-quality protein in a single menu item. I mean, even amidst the Spurlocks and the Michael Pollans and Eric Schlossers out there showing us how we’re destroying ourselves by eating not just bad meat, but doing so in epic proportions, there’s still both a demand and a supply for a 1400 calorie sandwich. Don’t get me wrong, I adore hamburgers. Even the president and the First Lady enjoy a good burger — a FLOTUS, I might add, who advocates whole, healthy foods and even set up an organic vegetable garden on White House property. But why can’t people realize that a hamburger the size of your head isn’t necessarily going to be as tasty as a more modest sized sandwich? Because we’re Americans, dammit, and if we’ve learned anything by being the most powerful nation in the world, it’s that quantity will always trump quality. Some egg-head tells me I should eat only four or five ounces of meat at a meal? Must be a socialist! A freedom-hating, pinko queer! He can eat his tiny tofu Commie salad in Canada; but me, I’m a patriotic, flag-waving American, and I’d sooner go to war than put down my artery-destroying quadruple cardiac detonation burger. You can pry it out of my cold, dead hands along with my assault rifle, my Hummer keys and my porn. Or so the rationale goes.
Here’s a thought: Do you know how much meat a terrorist in the mountains of Afghanistan probably gets to enjoy? I’m guessing very little. Yet here we are, advertising sandwiches big enough to choke a manatee. And we wonder why the terrorists hate our freedom? Maybe it’s because this is what we’ve thought to do with it.
But enough political philosophy for now. All of a sudden, I’m hungry for chicken.