Nothing in life fascinates me as much (at least, since that stern talking-to I got from Jennifer Anistons lawyers) as new fast-food products. Not since Dr. Frankenstein was directing research for the European medical industry has anybody produced more botched experiments or buried the bodies faster.
Remember the grilled pineapple-and-cheese Hula Burger? McDonalds certainly hopes that you dont. McSpaghetti or McPizza, either. And its hard to say which failed more spectacularly: Burger Kings early-90s attempt at table service (with a menu that included shrimp, salad, baked potato and of course the sine qua non of fine dining, popcorn). Or its 2005 Meatnormous Omelette Sandwich, a breakfast-buffet-on-a-bun that included eggs, cheese, bacon and ham dressed with 330 milligrams of cholesterol and 1,950 milligrams of sodium.
So when I heard that Burger King has introduced a mutant low-cal dish called Satisfries, I reacted pretty much the same way those apes did in 2001: A Space Odyssey when they saw that black monolith: jumping around, squealing and brandishing a club at my editors while demanding a chance to sample and write about it.
Nothing gets Americans ticked off faster than messing with their fries, which they consume at an awesome rate of 60 pounds per person per year. The Internet has entire message boards devoted to bitter screeds about how fries havent tasted worth a damn since 1982, when McDonalds began the downfall of the fast-food industry and probably even Western civilization by caving to the Health Gestapo, switching its deep fryers from beef tallow tallow being the polite cooking term for fat to vegetable oil.
And someday we will doubtless invade and subjugate some other country for atrocities it has inflicted on defenseless potatoes. From Canadas barbaric poutine (cheese curds! on fries!) to the sinister mayonnaise fries of Belgium and the Netherlands, the world is one culinary outrage after another to the keepers of the American french-fry flame.
So my editors, who I sometimes suspect are as happy to be rid of me as I of them, gave me a few bucks and sent me off to Burger King and a few other venerated french-fry spots to see what the fuss is all about. My verdict: By the next full moon the night will be alive with tattered bands of Burger King executives, shovels over their shoulders, looking for a deserted spot in which to inter a mutilated corpse. Satisfries are dead on arrival.
This isnt really surprising. The stuff that makes food taste good fat, salt, sugar are the same things that throw the calorie fascists and the blood-pressure police into a rabid frenzy. This is especially true for fast food, which in the hands of nutritional fundamentalists gets reduced pretty much to nothing. Literally: McDonalds health-nut-certified Arch Deluxe, which cut the fat in a Big Mac by nearly two-thirds, did it by using beef patties composed mostly of seaweed and water. Thats great if youre a sea turtle, but human customers were less enthusiastic, and the Arch Deluxe is now buried out in the Everglades alongside the McGratin Croquette (dont ask).
Satisfries were obviously invented by scrawny, calorie-counting schoolmarms rather than anybody whos ever eaten a meal for pleasure. Burger King is promoting them with the pitch that they are dramatically healthier than the fries at McDonalds. My confidence in this claim is more than a little undermined by a Burger King press release that claims Satisfries have 140 percent less fat and 230 percent fewer calories both numbers are mathematical impossibilities.