Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Culinary Immorality

I just read an article about an American chain restaurant's latest creation. The Grilled Cheese Burger Melt at Friendly's. I've only seen pictures, as we don't have this franchise in Canada. Not even in Niagara Falls, where we seem to have an awful lot of American chains. But the pictures say enough. Described as "a Big Beef burger between two hot grilled cheese sandwiches" with some token lettuce and tomato thrown in for good measure, I guess. 1500 calories, a whopping 97 grams of fat and 2 090mg of sodium.

Not to be outdone, another chain - Chili's - has a burger with a comparatively lean 40 grams of fat but 5 250mg of sodium!

I don't understand it. Not completely. Just because one can do something, does that mean he or she should? Just because a restaurant can create something that goes so far beyond the definition of unhealthy, does that mean that they should offer it to the public? It can be argued that the onus is on the customer to not indulge in such nutritional fiascoes, but does that absolve the restaurant entirely? Would the guy who just ate two KFC Double Downs have chosen to create a meal with a similar fat and sodium profile if that abomination weren't available?

It's a kind of culinary immorality. Immorality being defined in part as "not conforming to the patterns of conduct usually accepted or established as consistent with principles of personal and social ethics." Food like this is created not for positive social value or personal betterment, but to revel in the grossness of human excess. To thumb noses at sensible eating and celebrate a more immature mindset that would have us believe that this kind of food falls under the "everything in moderation"mantra. The missed point is that there is no moderation in a burger with 97 grams of fat. There is just excess.

Do I blame restaurant chains for catering to the whims of the stupid and short sighted? No, not entirely. Much of the responsibility lies with the guy choosing to shove the disgusting mess into his gaping maw, guffawing about how it's just one burger and it won't kill him, as mayo drips down his chin and his blood pressure goes through the roof.

I don't know how we got to this point. Perhaps with more research I'd be able to trace the roots of this to something larger than self indulgent stupidity. To be fair, many more of us make poor food choices on a smaller scale all the time. But there is something that I find almost offensive about offerings like these "burgers." They seem to be daring people to embrace them as somehow normal, while at the same time scoffing at the idea of making healthy choices and creating menus which embrace health rather than debauchery.

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