No fat? No way

There's no shame in "bad" eating
By BRIAN DUFF  |  March 29, 2006

THINK FAST: No biggie if you don't watch what you eat.Poet Joe Wenderoth wrote: “Some days . . . only a Biggie will do. You wake up and you know; today I will get a Biggie and I will put it inside me and I will feel better.” It’s so true. But for years the experts and the self-righteous elite have conned us into shunning the very cuisine we find most fulfilling. Last month the American Medical Association published the results of a $415 million study on the health effects of a low-fat diet. There were no effects. This is our emancipation proclamation: Our long national nightmare of low-fat malarkey is over.

Relieved, exhilarated, vindicated, I visited three of America’s most maligned institutions: McDonald’s, Burger King, and Wendy’s, to sample the most classic meal possible — the combination that would unlock the pleasures too long imprisoned by shame and recrimination. Usually that combination was #1.

McDonald’s offers two equally classic burgers with wildly different personalities, the Big Mac and the Quarter Pounder. It was strange to peer down at them. As a child I imagined any burger with its own name to be gargantuan and decadent. But tucked in their cardboard boxes they looked modest and petite. Were these really the little sandwiches that had started this big war?

The Quarter Pounder is admirably straightforward — all meat, cheese, mustard, and onion. The pickles have little effect on the experience. The key to this burger is the semi-diced onions, somewhere between sautéed and raw. The meat is gray, and a little mushy. But it could have been worse, and carried a realistically beefy flavor. The Big Mac, by contrast, is really all bread. The two small, incredibly thin burgers get lost amid the buns, the watery lettuce, and sweet pinkish sauce. The fries were a little clammy and cool, but still evidenced the pleasant sag that shows they were cooked just to the point where the potato surrenders its dignity to the greasy heat, like when a nice girl falls for the cheap charms of a handsome frat-boy jerk. The soda was a bit syrupy.

At McDonald’s comfortable booths lined the back wall, with seats of faux leather and the sort of fabric that often appears on luggage, with an abstract pattern a cross between Miró and Picasso. It was lovely, as was the almost text-less, photo-dominated menu behind the counter.

Wendy’s was brighter and cleaner, and the staff seemed more professional and middle-aged, if a little less interesting. It is so nice to see the corners of burger stick out from the bun of the Classic Single With Cheese. The color seems just right — a sort of blackish brown — and having bitten into it I swear I saw a streak of pink in the middle. This beef was good enough that you could hazard a double. Big, crisp slices of onion make eating a little messy, but are not so sharp that they overwhelm. A tomato slice of the perfect thickness lends some sweetness to accompany the mustard and mayonnaise, which had been calibrated perfectly. The fries are thicker than at McD’s, and in offering too much potato they seemed to have strayed from their primary mission of delivering grease and salt. The soda, again, was too syrupy.

1  |  2  |   next >
  Topics: Restaurant Reviews , Culture and Lifestyle, Food and Cooking, Foods,  More more >
| More

Most Popular
Share this entry with Delicious
  •   A LITTLE WHINE  |  September 05, 2014
    The lessons of Lolita are that something simpler and less challenging can be lovely, and that some cheap wine could really loosen things up.
  •   TACOS ON THE TOWN  |  August 31, 2014
    While there’s no class mobility in this town, we do have taco mobility—even taco-class mobility.
  •   COPING WITH ADULTHOOD  |  August 07, 2014
    The neighborhood’s newish Central Provisions is grown up. But it also embodies our ambivalence about adulthood, and our persistent hope that a few more drinks will help us cope with it.
  •   PATHS TO GREATNESS  |  July 31, 2014
    India, like the American university, is mostly in the news these days for its bloated and ineffective administration and an epidemic of underprosecuted sexual assault. But let’s not give up on either—India or college—as a source of wisdom and repository of culture.
  •   THE QUAY TO GOOD LIVING  |  July 11, 2014
    Though they offer an appealing moral clarity, in practice zero tolerance policies have ruined any number of urban schools, fragile marriages, and card-marred soccer games. Zero tolerance almost ruined Portland a few years back, too.

 See all articles by: BRIAN DUFF