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The Irresistable Force

January 3, 2014

Skipping meals is a terrible idea. Maybe not for everybody. But to paraphrase David Banner, you wouldn’t like me when I’m hungry.

Mostly I get grumpy. Or maybe to be a bit more precise, I should say that I get grumpier.

The thing is that I don’t even need a proper meal. I just need a certain number of calories to sustain bodily function. And really, those calories can come from anywhere. Last week week was a perfect example. I volunteered to run an errand for my mother-in-law out in the wilds of rural Pennsylvania, because I had a secret plan to visit my favorite frozen custard place for lunch. Except something went terribly wrong.

Apparently the day after Christmas is also a frozen custard holiday in Bedford, PA. So there I was, in the middle of nowhere, feeling myself crashing all around me. Fortunately, in my direct field of vision was a McDonald’s. Now say what you will about the chain, but I knew that I could get some decent French fries, and those would set me straight.

But I never expected the problem I would encounter at the drive through.

Perhaps I am in part to blame. After all, I find myself a bit removed from pop culture these days, except for a surprisingly good knowledge of top 40 radio. But I can’t tell you the last time I saw a television commercial for McDonald’s. That’s a pretty remarkable achievement since they spend, quite literally, hundreds of millions of dollars on the medium.

Also, I’m a very infrequent McDonald’s visitor. It’s been years since I’ve been able to walk into one of their restaurants and make heads or tails of their menu boards.

Luckily, you don’t need a menu board when you’re just getting an order of French fries.

So there I was, in my weakened state, pulling up to the drive-through. It would be wrong to say that I looked at the menu board. Rather, the menu board thrust itself onto my retinas, and in doing so it planted an unfathomable desire that I found impossible to shake.

The $1 Buffalo Ranch McChicken sandwich.

Oh. Dear. God. Buffalo-style anything is my achilles heel. And it was only a dollar? I mean…how could I not order it? Even just to try a bite and spit it out in disgust. Seeing the calorie count on the menu made it even more enticing. How can they even sell 350 calories for a buck? How’s that possible? And really, how bad could it be? Anything slathered in Buffalo sauce has to be good. Especially if it’s fried.

In my diminished state, I didn’t even have the presence of mind to ask for it without ranch dressing which in its industrially produced version is simply foul. However, it wasn’t the ranch dressing that doomed the beast.

Ooh. Yeah. But it was a nasty and spongy little thing. Also, I don’t know why I always seem to find little bits of cartilage in my fast food sandwiches. At least I hope it was cartilage. Really the whole thing tasted like “chicken flavor” with little pockets of Buffalo sauce to perk it up.

If there is one upside to this whole experience, it is that I didn’t forgo the fries to try this little science experiment. Fortunately, I was able to drive the taste of “chicken flavor” out from the back of my throat by shoveling down most of a large order of fries. The number of calories and fat I consumed was staggering.

The number of ingredients was at least as staggering. I kid you not.

Ingredients: Chicken, Water, Salt, Sodium Phosphates. Battered and Breaded with: Bleached Wheat Flour, Water, Wheat Flour, Modified Food Starch, Salt, Spices, Wheat Gluten, Paprika, Dextrose, Yeast, Garlic Powder, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil and Cottonseed Oil with Mono and Diglycerides, Leavening (Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Baking Soda, Ammonium Bicarbonate, Monocalcium Phosphate), Natural Flavor (Plant Source) with Extractives of Paprika.

Prepared in Vegetable Oil (Canola Oil, Corn Oil, Soybean Oil, Hydrogenated Soybean Oil with TBHQ and Citric Acid added to preserve freshness). Dimethylpolysiloxane added as an antifoaming agent.

Ingredients: Enriched Flour (Bleached Wheat Flour, Malted Barley Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamin Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup and/or Sugar, Yeast, Soybean Oil and/or Canola Oil, Contains 2% or Less: Salt, Wheat Gluten, Calcium Sulfate, Calcium Carbonate, Ammonium Sulfate, Ammonium Chloride, Dough Conditioners (May Contain One or More of: Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate, DATEM, Ascorbic Acid, Azodicarbonamide, Mono and Diglycerides, Ethoxylated Monoglycerides, Monocalcium Phosphate, Enzymes, Guar Gum, Calcium Peroxide), Sorbic Acid, Calcium Propionate and/or Sodium Propionate (Preservatives), Soy Lecithin.

Ingredients: Cayenne Pepper Sauce (Cayenne Red Peppers, Vinegar, Salt, Garlic), Water, Soybean Oil, Modified Food Starch, Xanthan Gum, Beet Juice (Color), Natural Flavor (Plant and Dairy Source), Garlic, Citric Acid, Calcium Disodium EDTA (Protect Flavor), Citric Acid.

Ingredients: Soybean Oil, Cultured Buttermilk, Water, Sour Cream (Milk, Cultured Cream, Modified Food Starch, Guar Gum, Sodium Phosphates, Carob Bean Gum, Sodium Citrate, Calcium Sulfate, Carrageenan, Dextrose, Potassium Sorbate, Citric Acid, Gelatin, Mono- and Diglycerides), Egg Yolks, Contains 2% or Less: Distilled Vinegar, Maltodextrin, Salt, Dextrose, Modified Food Starch, Soy Sauce (Soybeans, Wheat, Salt), Dried Onion, Garlic Powder, Lactic Acid, Natural (Plant and Dairy Sources) and Artificial Flavors, Shallots, Preservatives (Sodium Benzoate, Potassium Sorbate, Calcium Disodium EDTA), Xanthan Gum, Spice, Phosphoric Acid, Sodium Acid Sulfate, Propylene Glycol Alginate, Autolyzed Yeast Extract.

Seriously, that’s too many ingredients to count. And they found some way to put all of them together in a wax paper wrapper, for only a buck. It boggles the mind. Oh, and I almost forgot to mention that this one small sandwich contained 980mg of sodium.

Fortunately, I don’t have to eat this food all the time. But I tell you, if I were poor and truly hungry, the value proposition of the McDonald’s dollar menu is hard to beat. If this isn’t an argument for subsidizing cleaner food production instead of the corn, soy and canola that make this one dollar monstrosity possible, I don’t know what is.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. January 3, 2014 12:05 pm

    “Fortunately, I don’t have to eat this food all the time. But I tell you, if I were poor and truly hungry, the value proposition of the McDonald’s dollar menu is hard to beat. If this isn’t an argument for subsidizing cleaner food production instead of the corn, soy and canola that make this one dollar monstrosity possible, I don’t know what is.”

    Love that.

    I’m working on a piece right now for the TU that touches on the “Big Mac Index.” Interesting stuff. Great piece DB!

  2. January 3, 2014 1:08 pm

    I’m with you 100%. While we were renovating the new store in Saratoga, we spent many a lunch at the McDonalds out near Lowes and Home Depot. Not because it was good or nutritious. Simply because it was cheap. Feeding a crew of construction workers (mainly my dad and some friends) on a tight budget was a simple task at McDonald’s.

    I had the same thing on every trip: value menu cheese burger and value menu fries. I don’t want to think about the ingredients.

    Previously had not stepped into McDonalds in over ten years. Will probably be ten more, now that the renovations are done.

    And yes, I had my share of cartilage and grizzle bits.

    HOWEVER…. In a desperate attempt to find food coming in from Saratoga mid snow storm last night…. I tried a burger from the Standard at crossgates mall. Perhaps it was an off night but I found my share of cartilage and grizzle bits in that one too.

    Beff’s used to have a great burger (like 10 years ago) but overtime you can taste they have changed over to a lesser quality of meat. It taste dirty.

    Juicy burger is not bad if you’re opting for fast food…. But I have not checked their ingredients. I should.

    New World Bistro still holds my vote for a good grass fed burger.

    So who has the best burger in the capital district? And oops. I think I hijacked your post about chicken to discuss burgers. Lol. It’s my ADHD.

    • Jon E permalink
      January 12, 2014 2:34 pm

      Five Guys. No question. Juicy comes in second. But the Five Guys in Wilton is a joke – poor portion control and a sullen, apathetic group of employees who need to clean their store. The Western Avenue location near Crossgates is the best. It’s a happy place.

  3. Randy K permalink
    January 6, 2014 1:43 pm

    ugh. scary!!

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