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Saying Something Positive About McDonald’s

When do you ever hear something positive about McDonald’s?

My betrothed will not take kindly to what I’m about to say.  She’s about the most outspoken person I’ve ever met in opposition to fast food.  That being said, I hope she and the rest of you can see through to the point I will attempt to make in the following post:  McDonald’s should be admired for its excellence.

Fat people sued them because they were looking for a delicious scapegoat for their reckless gluttony.  Morgan Spurlock demonized them in his documentary, Super Size Me, in which he ate nothing but McDonald’s food for a month.  He suffered physically for this feat, but I wonder why he didn’t just pour salt down his throat and marvel at how dehydrated he got.  Ronald McDonald, the clown who serves as the face of their kid-focused charitable endeavors, is often targeted by comedians for being creepy.  McDonald’s has also been forced into posting all of their nutrition facts.  This seems unfair since you can easily consume a couple thousand calories at most chain restaurants.   Lately, there has been a push in some communities against the Happy Meal, since it “lures” kids into eating unhealthy food.  You know, because kids are the ones who drive themselves to McDonald’s and pay for everything.  It really seems like McDonald’s is being singled out.  But why?

They are the #1 fast food chain in the world.  They serve nearly 70 million people a day in about 120 countries.  They employ 400,000 people and earned over 20 billion in revenue in 2010.  McDonald’s has become a symbol of globalization, spreading their brand throughout the civilized world.  In short, they are the best at what they do.

McDonald’s has achieved a level of excellence which should be praised.  Yes, for their ability to succeed in a global marketplace, and to evolve with the times, McDonald’s should be commended.

I am not saying everyone should eat McDonald’s all of the time.  That makes you fat and unhealthy much like eating out most other places would.   What I’m saying is that they are the global leader in their area of the marketplace for a reason.  They are easy to target for their contribution to American obesity, but when it comes down to it these same people who point a greasy finger at them are the reason McDonald’s is the powerhouse that it is.  If we didn’t like it, McDonald’s wouldn’t exist.

So let’s just admit to ourselves that McDonald’s is the best at what they do.  And let’s also accept responsibility for what we put into our bodies without acting like helpless victims at the mercy of such a delicious juggernaut.

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A Friendly’s Advocate

This past October, Friendly’s Restaurant closed 63 locations and filed for bankruptcy.  One of the casualties occurred in my hometown of Northbridge, where I first learned the pleasures of a dessert-centric meal.  Opinions are often strong when it comes to the Friendly’s experience, with most believing that the chain falls short on service and food quality.  Fortunately, there are a few who feel that Friendly’s is not only worth saving, but worth celebrating as a flavor factory of pure indulgence.

Friendly’s is not a 5 star restaurant.  You will not get exceptional service and fine fresh ingredients.  What you will get is great tasting food delivered with a smile.  I can’t tell you how many times I have heard that Friendly’s has terrible service.  It takes forever to get their meals, or the waitress is incompetent.  Honestly, of all the times I have eaten at Friendly’s I have had no more than two negative service experiences.  It’s probably something like 1 out of 30.  Every other time I have had no complaints.  Regarding the food quality, if I were ordering a steak or some kind of grilled fish I would be very concerned about the quality of the ingredients.  But since I am ordering chicken sandwiches, hamburgers, fries, and similar dishes I do not require farm fresh products.  I require exceptional flavor and good (not great) quality ingredients.  The Friendly’s experience is not about flare, but flavor.  They deliver big on flavor.

In an age where American obesity poses a monumental health crisis, Friendly’s did not bow to the pressures of political correctness.  What they did was invent a hamburger that wins the medal for highest calorie content of any chain restaurant.  Someone somewhere high in the Friendly’s hierarchy decided to create a sandwich with two grilled cheeses for buns.  What boldness at a time when McDonalds is forced to post their nutrition facts, and soda machines are being expelled from schools.  Let us applaud them for staying true to self as a restaurant dedicated to dishing out delicious food.

Friendly’s ice cream is above criticism.  It’s not the greatest homemade stuff you can find at a local stand, but it is still creamy and flavorful.  Their frappes are thick, and their soft serve treats are on par with Dairy Queen.  Try Hunka Chunka PB Fudge, it’s awesome.

Of course, everything I have said comes second to the fact that Friendly’s houses the greatest sandwich in the history of mankind: the Honey Barbeque Chicken Supermelt!  If there was a sandwich flavor scale that went to 10, this sandwich would require an entirely new scale in which it would score an 8.  To put it another way, it is an 18 out of 10.  If you haven’t had it yet, leave your house immediately and drive to Friendly’s.  It is like the best day of your life manifesting itself in a sandwich meant for the king of some country where chickens are worshipped.  Eat the fries too.  They are out of this world.

Friendly’s is just a place to eat unhealthy and delicious food at affordable prices.  It’s not trying to be anything spectacular, but it doesn’t need to be.  It’s simple, and simply satisfying.  The choice is yours.

The Magic of Yogurtland: The Indecisive Sweet Lover’s Paradise

Gather round and I will tell you a tale of a far away place filled with beauty and defined by perfect freedom.  It is a sacred country where lions and gorillas play peacefully with puppies and baby monkeys.  A land flowing with milk and honey, where the old teach wisdom to the young and the young sing songs of innocence and promise.   Yes, this is a frozen treat lover’s paradise.  This is a sanctuary of unapologetic indulgence.  My friends, this is Yogurtland.

The slogan of Yogurtland really captures its essence: You Rule.  From the moment you walk in, you are in control of your experience.  And, oh, how simple a concept this is.  You pick a dish, you choose your flavors, and you choose your toppings.  But you don’t just choose and surrender to some frozen yogurt jockey, you add everything in any amount or order your heart desires.   Then, when it’s all over, they simply weigh your dish and charge you accordingly.  But don’t fret about the cost, even with my gut-busting mountain of chilly goodness it still cost under five dollars.

Now let me tell you about the flavors.  They have Red Velvet Cupcake Batter, Nutter Butter, Strawberry Cheesecake, Chocolate Milkshake, Double Cookies and Cream, Green Tea, Pistachio, Dragon Passion Tart, Dutch Chocolate and more!  This is premium stuff, and even without the toppings would make Yogurtland a special place.  But who are we kidding?  On to the toppings.

For the health inclined they have fruits and stuff.  Ok, ok they have a great selection of fruits and nuts and pretty much any healthy thing you could imagine to place on top of frozen yogurt.  I sort of looked past those toppings, though.  You’ll understand why in a second.

Crushed Oreo cookies, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, M&M’s, mini Nutter Butters, brownie chunks, cheesecake bits, Kit Kat pieces, sprinkles, crushed graham crackers, at least four kinds of sauces, chocolate chips, Gummi Bears, mini caramel cups and many many more.  As I mentioned in the title, it’s an indecisive sweet lover’s paradise.  Just get a little of everything.  I did.

This is all well and good, and I hope I have peaked your interest, but unfortunately I have some sobering news for my fellow New Englanders.  My experience took place in California, and  the closest Yogurtland to us is in New Jersey.  It’s a long way to travel for a treat.  Then again, maybe it’s worth it.  After all, we can’t let Bruce Springsteen and Snooki have their fill without taking some for ourselves.

And maybe, just maybe someone out there is looking to open a franchise here in my home state of Massachusetts.  Perhaps it’s you.  If that’s the case, let me assure you that I speak for my millions of hungry brothers and sisters here in New England when I say, “Make this California dream a Massachusetts reality!

UPDATE 1/9/13:  Yogurtland announced it is coming to Boston!  Click here to learn more.

My Beef With Food Network

I hate Bobby Flay.  Does that seem harsh?  I put him in the same category as Ashton Kutcher and John Mayer, which I call “People Who Make My Blood Boil”.  The list is short, but still far too long.  Excuse me while I collect myself.

Food Network wasn’t always what it is today.  In the beginning, it was something far different, and far better.  Just starting out, Food Network was like the new kid on the block.  It was reserved, humble, and had all sorts of heart.  Back then, Alton Brown was a hidden jewel, Iron Chef was in Japanese, and the most annoying show was Emeril Live.  They had a lot to prove, and there was no room for arrogance.

My family used to turn to Food Network for helpful cooking tips and priceless entertainment.  As I said, Alton Brown was a hidden jewel with his quirky show, Good Eats.  His show was the perfect balance of fun and instruction.  My father regularly turned to him as his food guru.  I can’t tell you how many times I have heard, “Well, Alton Brown says to…”   Many a Saturday night, my family and I watched the original Iron Chef.  If you haven’t seen it, you’re really missing out.  It is truly a spectacle.  There are cooking “battles”, theme ingredients, and some of the worst voice overs since Godzilla vs. Mothra.  We often found ourselves laughing to the point of tears.  And I even had a favorite chef to root for, Chen Kenichi!

Don't Let That Sweet Face Fool You!

Food Network had a heart, and back then it felt like it belonged to us.  These were our shows, and these people were our people.  Even when Rachel Ray annoyed me with her chipper personality and asinine sayings like, “EVOO Extra virgin olive oil”, at least she was ours, and at least she was harmless and not an uber-celebrity like she is now.  Heck, I could even look past Emeril’s  “bams!” and the off-putting sight of grown men cheering at the word “garlic”.  I understood that the network as a whole had their act together, and like one burnt potato chip in a large bag I wasn’t going to let a few people sour me against the rest.

That was then.

You know, I can pinpoint the exact moment in which the Food Network began to take a turn for the worse.  A while back, the original Japanese Iron Chef joined up with them to make a special featuring Bobby Flay.  They would have a “battle” and it would be a ratings super-storm.  Well, they had their battle, and it looked like everything would be just fine.  That is, until…

Start watching at 3:20

When Bobby Flay jumped up on that cutting board, he unapologetically offended the sacred tradition of his opponent.  He “raised the roof” of his arrogance and ushered in a new era for the Food Network.

Food Network now has reality shows, like The Next Food Network Star, and Extreme Chef.   These shows are stressful, and a far cry from the relaxed kitchen settings of what we are used to.  They go for forced drama, and certainly lack the heart that made Food Network what it is.  But even more offensive than these is the Americanized version of Iron Chef.   It has replaced the classic show, and you can no longer find it in their current roster.  It also lacks the heart and charm of the original since it has all of the intensity and none of the personality.  I find it painful to watch.  I can’t stand to see Bobby Flay as the star of this monstrosity.  And speaking of Bobby Flay, I have to mention his show, Throwdown, which is pretty much him trying to beat people at what they do for a living.  You make good cookies in your simple bakery?  Well, I’m a jackass so I’m going to try to do what you do even better.  I’m boiling.

Sure, Food Network still has plenty of fine programming.  Unwrapped is a personal favorite, and I get a kick out of Diners Drive-Ins and Dives.  But Alton Brown is known by everyone, and Rachel Ray has her own talk show.  It’s now too popular for its own good, and like a band that you used to love before they made it big, has sold out in the name of fame and profit.

 

Delicacy= Disgusting

“Here, try this.”

“What is it?”

“It’s a partially formed chicken fetus.”

“That’s disgusting!”

“No, it’s a delicacy.”

We’ve all had this conversation.  Maybe not about eating a chicken fetus, but something just as disgusting.  How many times have you seen something, either in real life or on television that looked absolutely disgusting but was declared a delicacy?

Why not try this poisonous puffer fish called Fugu?

Are you worried that it’s both gross and deadly?  Don’t be!  Hey, it’s a delicacy.  And if something is a delicacy, it must be good.  You only think it’s disgusting because you’re an uncultured swine.  Eat up!

If you do a Google image search using the word delicacy you may want to place a bucket next to your chair.  First, you have the partially formed chicken fetus that I mentioned.  This is a delicacy in the Philippines, and I know that my friend Joel has tried it.  After that you have a picture of what looks like a badger pancake hanging on a hook.  Scroll down and you’ll see cooked rats and fat grubs on a stick.  Then you’ll see some octopus and a bowl of fruit bat soup.   It goes on and on, and you get my point.  In general, delicacies are repulsive.

Did I mention that the definition for delicacy is Something pleasing and appealing, especially a choice food? Sounds about right.

Is the whole world playing a joke on us?

I am bringing this to your attention so that you will not fall into the trap of eating something simply because it has the right label.  Just because something is a delicacy does not mean that it is good, delicious, or desirable.  Chances are it’s actually something disgusting.

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.

A chicken fetus, a bowl of worms, a cow tongue, a poisonous fish, a bloated badger, a bat, a rat, and an octopus by any other name (delicacy) is still disgusting.

 

And if you’re thinking that me eating a hamburger or a chicken wing is along the same lines, let me remind you that it’s just meat that I’m eating.  I’m not eating feathers, eyes, tentacles, tongues, or feet. I’m just not that sophisticated.

 

 

 

Guilt Free Day 2011

 

A long long time ago, in the sophomore year of my college career,  I helped to create a holiday.  Samm Zachs, Jon Vickers, and myself developed something called Guilt Free Day.  Here’s the deal.

I was tired of hearing how guilty people felt after eating something fattening and delicious.  You’ve probably witnessed this, or perhaps been one of those people yourself.  My reaction was, if you’re going to eat something delicious why not simply enjoy it without all of the negative attitude?  No one is forcing you to eat the ice cream or McDonald’s, so stop complaining.  Either eat it and love it or don’t eat it at all.  Guilt Free Day came out of a response to this attitude.

On Guilt Free Day one has the freedom to eat whatever they wish without having to justify anything.  If you want to put butter on your Milk Duds, go right ahead.  If you want to eat Chinese food and pizza in the same meal, you got it.  It is the one day a year in which you can eat terrible delicious food without feeling a heavy conscience.  Sure, if you overdo it you will feel like death, but that’s the name of the game.  Even if your body protests, you can still put your mind at ease.  It’s Guilt Free Day.

Now, initially there was some confusion regarding the scope of this freedom.  People began to ask if they could skip classes or not study on Guilt Free Day.  Let me set the record straight that the day is intended only for food.  It came as a response to people bellyaching about calories, so let’s keep it simple.  You can’t hurt people on Guilt Free Day.  You can just eat unhealthy food without feeling guilty.

Every year, a date must be set for this special day.  In 2011, I have chosen Wednesday, February 2 as the official Guilt Free Day of 2011.  This is also Groundhog Day.  I figure, this is at the peak of the winter doldrums, and if the groundhog sees his shadow we will all need a little morale booster.

So let it be known throughout the land!  Guilt Free Day is nearly upon us.

Let each man and woman celebrate as they see fit.

 

 

Disclaimer:  The creators of Guilt Free Day are aware of the ever-growing obesity epidemic in this country. That being said, Guilt Free Day exists as a matter of principle, and not as a means to alter the regular diets of average Americans.  Every individual is responsible for his or her radical food intake on said dayand every other day.

Eat responsibly- ish

Who’s More Likely To Eat People?

(I feel that a disclaimer is needed.  Today’s topic came out of a conversation I had at work.  Someone mentioned cannibalism and I thought, who becomes a cannibal in the first place?  Naturally, my mind went to the most ridiculous place and I thought of vegans.  Then I thought it would be fun to try to make an impossible argument for such a ridiculous statement.  I recognize that the conditions that most chickens and cows are raised in is deplorable, and steps should be made to improve their quality of life.  And I don’t have strong feelings about vegans or vegetarians.  People can eat what they want.  They just can’t eat who they want. )

I want you to imagine a pyramid.  Plants are on the bottom.  Fish are a little higher.  Livestock are even higher.  Then you have more intelligent animals like dolphins and dogs and chimps.  Then, on the top, you have humans.  This is basically how your average human views their standing in the food chain.  We are at the top.  Sure, we generally don’t eat chimps and dolphins, but we wouldn’t consider it murder if we ate one in order to avoid starvation.

Most of us eat meat without any feeling of guilt.  We don’t carry the moral burden of a thousand dead chickens, or a thousand dead cows.  Meat tastes good and it is part of the natural order.  That being said, we draw the line at eating people.  It is acceptable to eat other animals, but it is completely unacceptable to eat one of our own.  The reasons for this are many, but the overriding one is the high (even sacred) value we place on human life.  Humans are not only more intelligent and resourceful than the other animals, we also carry a unique spark of the divine.  The smartest chimp in the world still lacks this eternal and invaluable human characteristic.  We are different.  We are above.  We are separate.

Now I want you to imagine a circle.  A circle doesn’t have a top or a bottom.  Each point on the circle is equal.  At one point in the circle are plants. At another, fish.  At another, livestock.  At another, chimps.  And at another, humans.  They are all equal.  One is not superior or higher than another.  This is closer to how a vegan views the food chain.  Humans do not have the right to take the lives of other animals.  All life is sacred.

You may be thinking, how could you possibly make an argument showing that vegans are closer to becoming cannibals than meat eaters?  Well, this is how.

In order to view all animals as equals, you have to reduce the potential value of human life.  In the classic (Judeo-Christian) view, humans are made in the image of God.  They are far above the other creatures.  They are moral beings.  You wouldn’t sue a chicken because a chicken has no moral responsibility.

If the value of a cow’s life is equal to that of a human,  surely it is at a great loss to the human.  We do not ask the cow to elevate himself to our position.  So it is up to us to reduce our superior standing.  You don’t see any other animal refusing to eat meat out of a moral objection.  The only reason humans can do this is the same reason they are above the animals in the first place.

So if someone views the lesser animals as having the same sacred life as humans, that sacred life becomes less sacred.  I know this is probably offensive to a number of people, but how could it not be true?  How does a son of God retain his dignity and eternal worth when he is the equal to a chicken?  Or a chimp?

Who is more likely to eat other humans?  The one who views humans as a unique creation with a value far greater than that of other animals, or the one who views humans and other animals as fundamentally equal?  I submit that it would be easier for a vegan to turn to cannibalism since their working philosophy  reduces the sacredness of human life.

The Chicken Farm: A Lover’s Analysis

Do you like the Red Sox? How do you pronounce Worcester? What’s a Fluffernutter? These are all questions posed to test the true citizenship of a Massachusetts resident. But when it comes to my little corner of Central MA, the supreme question is, Have you ever eaten at Wright’s Farm?*

I have heard the term “Chicken Pig-Out” used to refer to Wright’s. Honestly, this is a fairly accurate description. You walk in, and usually you tell the receptionist how big your party is and she has you remain in the waiting area/ bar room until your group is called. Once you’re called, you walk through a number of rooms filled with groups of people consuming massive quantities of food. The smells are intoxicating. When you reach your table, a waiter immediately comes over to ask everyone if they are getting the chicken. I have never seen anyone choose the other option, which is steak. Everyone says YES to the chicken, and the feast begins.

On average, Wright’s serves about a ton of chicken a day. When I say “a ton” I’m not being cute. I literally mean 2,000 pounds of chicken. And it’s no surprise since it can seat up to 1,200 people. To meet the ravenous demand, they have 75 ovens going constantly, roasting chicken to golden brown perfection. You’d expect this kind of unrestrained mass gluttony in the south, but not in the little Northeast state of Rhode Island. And maybe that’s part of what makes Wright’s so special.

So we’re sitting down, having just ordered the chicken. In most cases, they bring bowls of salad and rolls within 2 minutes. These rolls are simple, but fantastic. Light and soft. Add a little butter and you’re in heaven. Even the salad is good. They use just the right amount of their signature dressing. But this is only a taste of what’s to come. The main event!

All at once they bring out the pasta shells, french fries, and chicken. It’s all good, but I’m in love with the fries. And I don’t even know how to describe them. Slices of bliss might be the most accurate description. I pour on the ketchup and let all of the flavors have a party. Usually, I’m constantly refilling my glass with a pitcher of coke. Refills and seconds and thirds are to be expected.

There’s nothing fancy about this food, nor is there anything fancy about the dining experience. It resembles a trough more than a fine restaurant. But if you want all you can eat delicious comfort food at around $15 per person, you must visit this southern New England staple.

On a final note, they also have a massive gift shop with classic candies and fudge and any number of unnecessary trinkets. It’s part of the whole Wright’s experience.

* Some locals will claim that a similar establishment, Village Haven, is just as good, if not better than Wright’s. I have noticed that the usual argument in favor of Village Haven depends heavily on their cinnamon roles. In my opinion these rolls are nothing extraordinary. I don’t think they even belong with a chicken dinner in the first place.
Regardless of personal preference, when all things are considered, Wright’s is the defining dining experience of southern New England.