Eating Your Way Through the Seven Deadly Sins

Have you ever woken up, stretched, and thought, "You know, what the world really needs is a good $41 hamburger."? Well your dreams have been answered. That's right, your medical insurance will pay for your therapy. Then, once you're cured of such ridiculous dreams and go back to images of Elysian fields, cute little Teddy bears, and Barbie's cute friend Midge before she got knocked up, you can take a trip to New York City and dine at the Old Homestead restaurant where your dreams will become reality when you pay through the nose and eat the city's most expensive hamburger.

Yes, it really does cost $41, and that's because it's made from Kobe beef. This is truly high class meat which comes from Japanese cows that are raised on beer and massaged daily, which of course is every man's fantasy. No, not to eat a hamburger made from pampered cows, but rather to be raised on beer and massaged daily. And to be born with a remote in lieu of a right hand, of course. Since this is no ordinary overpriced hamburger, it comes with herb butter in the middle, is served on a special roll, and is garnished with exotic mushrooms, microgreens, and gourmet secret sauce. There are no sesame seeds in sight but garlic fries are included. You know, it's sounding like more of a deal every second.

When the burger debuted recently, the restaurant sold as many as 200 a day, and that was before the drive-thru window was installed to accommodate the line-up of stretch limos. Considering that for the same price you can chow down on 40 regular McDonald's burgers -- or 16 Big Macs -- you have to wonder if it can possibly be worth the price. Or whether all it will really do is force people into church because eating one violates each one of the seven deadly sins.

The deadly sins, for those of you who have never read the Lawrence Sanders' series, sat through the movie Seven, or pretended to be paying attention during catechism class when you were actually wondering whether Sister Mary Augustine spent her weekends sashaying around as Sister Bambi, are pride, envy, gluttony, lust, anger, greed, and sloth. This Top-7 Sin List was created by Pope Gregory I at the end of the sixth century because there was no birth control, gay priests, or cloning to take a stand against and, well, he had to do something, didn't he? As sins go these aren't as deadly as mortal sins -- in spite of their name -- though they're worse than venial ones. The deeper you get into it the more complicated this sinning business turns out to be, so my best advice is to either live a very pure and boring life or pray that you lose your conscience at the same time as your consciousness.

So how can one Budget Bustin' Burger drive you into confessional? First, there's the sin of pride in knowing your credit card limit will let you afford one. There's the envy that pushed you to be overly extravagant because all your friends have already eaten one and you can't stand being the only person at the cocktail party who has to not only eat a Whopper but tell one. There's the lust you have for that fine shiatsued Kobe beef made from cattle that should enter a 12-step program. There's the anger at realizing you could have taken 10 friends to McDonald's for that money. And impressed them by supersizing it. There's the greed that makes you eat every bite even after you're full because, well, at four bucks a nibble you're not about to let it go to waste or -- god forbid! -- be seen carrying a doggy bag out of there (score another one for pride). Then there's the sloth from not being able to do anything for the rest of the day while your stomach tries to digest it. Of course the gluttony is obvious.

Actually, you may not have to worry about this last sin much longer. Well, not if a group of French chefs, writers, and media stars get their way. According to the creatively named French newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche -- literally The Sunday Newspaper -- members of the Association for the Gourmand are planning to ask Pope John Paul II to remove gluttony as a deadly sin. The problem, it turns out, is one of semantics. Gourmandise is the French word for the Catholic church's gluttony sin. While it used to mean eating to excess, these days it connotes conviviality and good living. Another word, gloutonnerie, would more accurately be translated as gluttony. In other words, if they have their way gluttony would still be a sin in English-speaking countries but not in France.

This language clean-up should come as no surprise since the French are known for being sticklers about their native tongue, especially when English creeps in. That's why the Acadamie Francaise, whose patron saint is Nicolas Chauvin, works overtime to come up with French words no one cares about. A Walkman is a baladeur. Software is logiciel. But no one uses the words. They prefer to put "le" in front of an English word and use that, which is why they play le golf over le week-end just before they have le pique-nique. And yes, sometimes they eat l'hamburger, though it's doubtful they'd pay 38.77 euros for one. After all, that would make them angry and, well, that's a deadly sin.

More Mad Dog can be found online at: www.maddogproductions.com. His compilation of humorous travel columns, "If It's Such a Small World Then Why Have I Been Sitting on This Airplane For Twelve Hours?" is available from Xlibris Corporation. Email: md@maddogproductions.com.

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