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Belly up to the trough

March 01, 2007|by TIM ROWLAND

Commentary

Remember when the food police were ragging on the Big Mac because one single sandwich contained 540 calories? McDonald's listened, and now sells more rabbit food than Farmer McGregor.

But apparently a number of other restaurants sensed a void, and stepped in with culinary creations of their own that, in retrospect, make the Big Mac seem like Lean Cuisine.

According to the Chicago Tribune, "Restaurant chains across America are offering traditional favorites these days fused into combos such as bacon cheeseburger pizzas, lasagna with meatballs and buffalo-chicken-stuffed quesadillas. While consumers take to these entrees, health and nutrition advocates call the offerings 'hybrid horribles.'"

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Bacon. Is there anything it can't do? You can hear it in test kitchens across America.

"You know, something in this dish just isn't quite right."

"Aw, throw some bacon in it."

"You're a genius, Chef La-Z-Hart."

As a leading offender, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, pointed to Uno Chicago Grill, which offers a concoction that includes pizza, mashed potatoes, bacon (obviously), cheddar cheese and sour cream, that tips the scales in excess of 2,000 calories - which, for some people, is the entire recommended caloric intake for a day.

And I should mention in passing that this dish is just an appetizer.

Whew. Makes you wonder, after a 2k appetizer, where does one go from there? A side of beef? "Yes, to start I'd like the pizza skins appetizer, and after that bring me the entire contents of the University of Miami football team's cafeteria."

And for dessert you get the fruit medley, because you're watching your weight.

All this gluttony leads to one obvious question: Who on the face of God's green earth decided to combine pizza and mashed potatoes?

It's like Monday Night Football meets Thanksgiving.

Pizza and mashed potatoes. What's next, a turkey drumstick moussaka? Out in San Francisco they serve something called a "hangtown fry" that primarily consists of scrambled eggs and fried oysters. And yes, bacon. And I thought that was pushing the envelope.

I applaud the originality - as opposed to, say, Taco Bell, which takes the same five ingredients and serves them in 300 different variations - but come on, pizza and mashed potatoes? I'm tempted to go there and ask if I can have it with salted cod and mayonnaise, just to see if I can get a waitress to wrinkle her nose.

The Center for Science also singled out something called the "Colossal Burger" from Ruby Tuesday's, which, not including fries, packs 1,950 calories.

Sad to say, this news makes me want to run right out to Ruby Tuesday's and order a Colossal Burger. Because when I want a cheeseburger, I want a cheeseburger.

Yeah, thanks for the 411 on caloric content, but I'll be honest. I doubt too many people are going to be saying to themselves, "Gee, I really could stand to lose 20 pounds, I think I'll go out for a Colossal Burger." I think consumers already kind of know going in that this ain't diet chow. A Colossal Burger a day is not going to land you on too many Fitness Made Simple "after" photos.

And keep in mind, this is Hagerstown. Our motto isn't "If it feels good, do it," it is "If it tastes good, chew it."

Now that people know about its existence, there is probably a run on pizza skins as we speak. Restaurants know the deal. They bring out a meal on a plate any smaller than a toilet seat and we think we've been cheated.

The science guys want restaurants to list the number of calories next to each menu item. I'm not sure that helps. Hagerstonians might simply use this information as a gauge as to how good the dish tastes. "Oooo - 5,000 calories. That must be excellent; I'll take three."

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2324 or via e-mail at timr@herald-mail.com. You can listen to his podcast, The Rowland Rant, on www.antpod.com.

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