American fast food chain Hardees has unveiled its Monster Thick Burger. The basic specs of this thing are pretty frightening: 1,420 calories and 107 grams of fat from its two 1/3-pound slabs of Angus beef, four strips of bacon, three slices of cheese and mayonnaise and a buttered sesame seed bun.
As a point of reference, a Big Mac has 600 calories – which was pretty sickening in its own right until the arrival of this new generation of superburgers. For more background, MSNBC is running this story, and this one.
A really perceptive reader (thanks, Jeff!) brought this to my attention yesterday. My first thought when I followed the links in his e-mail was that this was a joke. But it's real, and it represents yet another milestone on society's apparently one-way trip to an obesity-laden dietary hell.
What bothers me more than the fact that the thing has two times the recommended daily allowance of fat, and almost a day's worth of sodium, is the attitude of Hardees head honcho Andrew Puzder. He says the new confection is "not a burger for tree-huggers.
"This is a burger for young hungry guys who want a really big, delicious, juicy, decadent burger. I hope our competitors keep promoting those healthy products, and we will keep promoting our big, juicy delicious burgers."
Um, right. I hope you can sleep at night, Andy. I guess the fact that you're actively promoting the proliferation of a killer doesn't seem to weigh on your conscience. Lovely. My belief in humanity has once again been reinforced.
Am I wrong in feeling this way? Should I be this riled up about an overblown sandwich from an otherwise-nondescript purveyor of grease patties? Does the world really change if someone pushes fast food to another egregiously dubious milestone?
Perhaps not. We are, after all, not obliged to consume this thing (even if I wanted to, I'd have to drive into the U.S.; yet another benefit to living in Canada.) And even if we were forced to stand at the 70s-styled formica counter and stuff back one of these bad boys, do we really think that all of society would be threatened because of what's inside the grease-stained wrapper?
Hardly. But this isn't a about statistics. It is about image, perception, and influence. Comparatively few people buy Dodge Vipers. They're horridly expensive, horridly bad on gas, and horridly useless for day-to-day living. But there they sit in the showroom next to humble Neons and PT Cruisers, casting their halo over the unwashed masses who can do no more than smudge the windows with their proletarian noses. The number of aspirants to these lofty machines will far exceed the number who ultimately roll one home, but the influence will extend far beyond the sheer number of folks behind the wheel.
Back to the food vernacular, the sandwich won't be a top-seller, but it will sit atop the menu, quietly establishing a new benchmark for adipose-soaked decadence. Lesser sandwiches won't seem quite so bad any more. We'll down whatever they offer with even less concern for its long-term impact on our health.
Indeed, even industry experts are shrugging their shoulders in a tacit admission that the battle for a healthy tomorrow is slowly – perhaps not so slowly – being lost. A restaurant consultant named Jerry McVety was quoted in the MSNBC article as follows: “Maybe this is a smart strategy because there are still folks out there who care about the taste and size of their sandwich, and less about their weight.”
Allow me to pause while I once again shake my head.
I'm no dietary angel. I eat my fair share of what my Yiddish-speaking grandmother would have termed chazerai – loosely translated as garbage, or junk food. But I can't help but shake my head at the prevailing attitudes that relentlessly drive ever more obscene creations into mainstream pop and food culture.
The Cold War may be over, but the Fat War continues to rage, and it's racking up more victims than any Soviet missile ever did. As odious as I find this new Hardees product, and the corporate message that has driven its introduction, I find it difficult to lay all the blame at one company's door. We demand this. We refuse to change. Fast food joints are simply adapting their offerings to deliver what we've asked for. The enemy, it would seem, is us.