Junk food confessions: Loving McDonald's openly, without shame
I know that as a chef, parent and responsible adult, I’m supposed to hate McDonald’s. It's made America fat! Its food is filled with preservatives! Its uniforms are ugly! Grimace!
I swear I’m actively trying to hate them, but I can’t manage to. I was never really a fan, getting to eat there only once in a blue moon when I was a kid growing up in Brooklyn. There, fast-food restaurants weren’t really as big of a deal as dirty water dogs or street tacos.
Then, 10 years ago, I inexplicably found myself needing six McChicken sandwiches and a bag of apple pies. Not want — need. Halfway through the carnage, with mayo and shredded iceberg lettuce all over my face (it got pretty intense), I realized there was something terribly wrong with my behavior. Twenty minutes later, after a quick stop at the pharmacy, I discovered I was pregnant with my first child. I then immediately went out and bought two Big Macs.
I always thought the reason kids love McDonald’s was that of the advertising and Happy Meal toys, but maybe I was wrong? Maybe there’s something that develops in all of us when in utero that requires it for survival? Ever notice that right around the time McNuggets were introduced, polio was eradicated? Do the anti-vaxxers know about this?
I still won’t eat there on the regular, but since my pregnancy, I have been known to have an insatiable craving here and there that cannot be placated by healthier options. And I am tired of being shamed for enjoying the occasional McDonald’s visit, of having to hide my stash in a reusable shopping bag to avoid dirty looks as I walk home with entirely too much food for a family of four (if you’re going to do it, you may as well go big). America is about choice and freedom and obesity, and I refuse to let any of you bastards take that away from me! If you’ve forgotten exactly what makes this country great, here’s a reminder:
The undisputed greatest invention of the 20th century. If you skip down the list a few spaces past television and all that NASA crap, you’ll find the unbridled magnificence that is ranch dressing. Together, they are the holy grail of food — something so untouchable not only in the culinary realm, but in our culture in its entirety. It’s Lennon and McCartney. Jordan and Pippen. "Islands in the Stream." You know this in your heart to be true.
Quick, name a better french fry on the planet. You can't. It's the standard every other fry aspires to be, and 9 out of 10 food writers agree (I've asked them all, so just trust me on that).
Everyone loves the McRib, but those scalawags in corporate keep taking it away from us. McDonald’s randomly puts it on the menu in different parts of the country for a limited time, doesn’t tell anyone and lets America get all Lord of the Flies about it. Last time it was released here in New York City, there was one single picture posted on Twitter at 10 a.m., and immediately half the city’s adults abandoned their desks and swarmed every McDonald’s in the city limits. I was there. It was like being in the pit at a Cannibal Corpse concert, but with pickles and barbecue sauce. We’ve all had that dream, and that was the day it came true.
After eating the McRib (OK, two), I got violently ill because I’m getting older and my body apparently can’t digest whatever the hell it’s made of. I still ate a McRib every single day for the rest of that month, entirely on principle.
Premium Southwest salad with baby kale
I would never actually eat a salad at McDonald’s, but they somehow managed to work 1,330 milligrams of salt and 43 grams of fat into a kale salad, and I can’t help but be impressed by that. It’s a gift, truly.
Hot apple pies
The early '90s were the golden age for bad decisions at McDonald’s. The baby boomer generation was hitting middle age and began to wise up to the fact that they had spent the previous 40 years filling their bodies with absolute garbage.
In one of the saddest attempts ever to keep up with the times, Mickey D’s began to fill its menu with “health” foods. There was the McLean Deluxe, which replaced the fat in its patties with seaweed, water and “natural beef flavor.” McSalad Shakers, where they’d give you a cup full of lettuce and shredded cheese, and you were in control over how much creamy Newman's Own blue cheese dressing to add. There were chicken fajitas, because salsa is healthy maybe?
Predictably the experiment failed, and all these items faded away, yet one poor decision from this era stubbornly lives on. Hot apple pies, once deep-fried to an ethereal, blistery, golden brown, became baked apple pies, like that was going to help keep us all from being fatties. Seaweed water burger, a side of fries and a baked apple pie are exactly what you need to get the bikini body of your dreams.
Baked apple pies are pretty good. They’re two for a buck, and if you crumble them into a vanilla shake, they’re much better — which, I'm guessing, defeats the whole purpose of their being baked in the first place. But they’re not fried, and fried apple pies are the zenith of all fast-food desserts. I realize there are people reading this who were born after they were taken from us, who sadly will never understand the greatness of which I speak. I swear to you all, they were miles beyond glorious, worth every tongue burn I had suffered at their hand. (I’m really bad at waiting. Also really bad at learning from pie mistakes.)
It occurred to me recently that having a recurring column on my poor food decisions was more than just an outlet to find others like me so I could feel slightly better about myself — it is also a position of intense power that I can use to mobilize a great army at my back. Now is not just the time for me to justify my love for McDonald’s; this is the time for action! This is the moment I use my platform to say, “Hey! Internet! Why don’t we stop complaining and actually do something?” I mean, I see people whining on Facebook all the time about various societal menaces, but we seem to enjoy reposting quotes and fighting with strangers we’ve never met in person more than actually finding ways to make actual societal change.
I truly believe that if there’s one issue we can all get behind, together, it’s bringing back our all-American fried apple pies. They’re crispy, they’re delicious, and they may possibly kill us all, but who cares? Not us! Click McDonald's: Bring Back Fried Apple Pies! to sign the petition and let your voice be heard!
Deep-frying doesn't kill people. People kill people — by force-feeding them pies.