Fast Food and Vampires

F or the past 40 days, I haven’t eaten any fast food.  No Burger King, Taco Bell, or even Chik Fil A.  Especially Chik Fil A, because any company that maintains that there are grounds for a faith-based initiative in the business of selling deep fried chicken patties clearly needs to take its head out of it’s tail feathers.  Incidentally, I am constantly suprised at the number of times “faith-based” ends up translating into “excuse to disapprove of people who aren’t like me.”  Oh wait, no I’m not.  For the record, I don’t need religion to be a good person any more than I need religion to give me an excuse to disapprove of other people.

But I didn’t stop there.  I actually went off of COFFEE from anywhere that wasn’t my coffee maker, which is way, way, waaaaaay harder than you might think.  Coffee is better than air and salt, and we “need” those things to continue physiologically functioning.  I had a friend who doesn’t drink coffee on religious grounds, and I distinctly remember one occasion where he actually turned to me as we were getting into a car at 7:15 AM for a gig and said, “Man, sometimes I just can’t get going in the morning.”  That’s a seriously defeatist perspective on the world, dude.  

Friend:  Hey God, I prayed for deliverance during the flood, why didn’t you answer my prayers and save me?

God:  I sent a boat, helicopter, and a giant bubba keg of 100% pure dark-roasted Columbian.  What did you think that was about?

Friend:  Awww…       

God:  Yeah.  Pretty weak.  You could have had it all, baby.

Now why, might you ask, would I visit such a ridiculous, unnecessary, and pleasure-voiding gauntlet of self-denial upon myself?  One simple reason:  

So I can pretend I’m better than you. 

Actually, it was to prove I’m better than my wife, which is far, far better than being better than you.   We so infrequently have opportunities to show quantitatively that we are better than our spouses, and to this end personal risks must necessarily be undertaken.  Besides, how could the threat of personal degredation and eternal bragging rights  NOT be involved in something so idiotic and self-destructive as giving up BigMacs?  Seriously, if I could beat down the heavyweight champion of the world live on HBO or beat my wife at Scrabble, I don’t need any further probe into my conviction to that answer.  So we made this bet, and we both made it a month.

Now after a month I had to admit that I didn’t particularly care about fast food.  Not because I turned into one of those born-again food idiots who blathers on about how much better they feel when in fact they just ate more regularly.  It was more of a lifestyle change because I had to actually consider where my food was coming from in advance, and once that’s done it’s not really any more effort to eat stuff from home.  But I will say about ten days afterwards I went to McDonalds and got the #1 combo, and you know what? 

It was pretty freaking delicious.  Screw you, this isn’t some hippie bullcrap thing where I spend so much time looking at my own poop that I convince myself that wheatgrass and Soy Cheese actually taste good.  Note on looking at your own poop to diagnose disease and the presence of “toxins”:  Weird stuff is firing out of your butt all the time.  It’s normal and natural, and if you don’t believe me get a camera and make a science fair project out of it.  Title:  The Dramatics of Variance.  Award:  First Place.  However, because most of us haven’t run this little experiment, if you start inspecting it every day and someone who wants your money fills in an answer to explain this perfectly normal but often overlooked variation, all of a sudden you will need to buy a bunch of lemons, maple syrup, and cayenne pepper from their Master Cleans company.  It’s the same reason that I don’t get on WebMD and start to self diagnose any more.  I get on there with a sore pinky toe and after two hours of cross checking symptons I have lupus and AIDS. 

So I eat the burger and fries, and ultimately decided I won’t be eating there again for a reason I never noticed before.  It’s not the one you expect either.  Of course we all know the food is crappy quality, but the generally pervading opinion appears to be that McDonalds finds a way to cook it so it’s passably edible.  This is true.  But if you actually look at a burger patty (don’t do this, just take my word for it)  you will find that it isn’t in fact well cooked at all.  It’s gray.  Now this is interesting, because in any other semi-reputable restaraunt, if they slung you a burger that was so profoundly cooked completely to ass, you’d send that thing back to the kitchen with extreme prejudice, and probably by throwing it back over the pass.  It’s an insult to a hamburger to over-cook it to that degree.  And if you somehow found the intestinal fortitude to take a bite of that burger, you’d find that it was more than likely one of the most disgusting things you’d ever attempted to stick into your face hole.  If your tongue didn’t reject it outright you can be sure your stomach would.

So why the hell does a McDonalds hamburger, which is actually made of crappier ingredients and cooked a million times worse than a normal burger, seem to taste OK?

It’s a work of pure genius, and to understand this we need to talk about vampires in the late 19th century in Eastern Europe.

Back in the day, a great fear of vampires swept across Europe, and as a result the average citizen became terrified of being buried alive.  Keep in mind, that no matter how stupid it is to believe in vampires, they still had the common sense not to do things like becoming vegan.  That’s just idiotic.  So anyway, they came up with a complicated and time-consuming solution to address the problem.  Every body was buried with five days of food and water, an air tube going up to the surface, and a little bell attached to a string they could ring in case they woke up.  Now as you can imagine, it was a huge pain in the butt to dig every dead body up after five days and rebury them, so eventually some brilliant soul looked at all this hassle and said, “hang on fellas, let’s just put a giant metal spike on the inside of the coffin so when we nail the lid on it’ll kill anyone left alive and we don’t have to waste any food or dig people up.”

F-ing.  Pure. Genius.  It’s the other solution to the problem.  You can either spend all your time making sure you don’t bury anyone alive, or spend a few seconds insuring everyone you bury is dead.  So what does this have to do with McDonalds?  Everything.

McDonalds knows damn well they can’t pay someone six bucks an hour and teach them to cook properly.  Can’t be done.  So how do you run your restaraunt?  Serve potentially undercooked meat and hoped no one get’s sick?  You’re not likely to get away with it I’m afraid.  So McDonalds came up with a simpler, much more ingenious solution.  They created a hamburger patty that can be cooked to absolute {crap} and still taste OK.  Didn’t you ever wonder why they put so much soy, filler, and grill seasoning in those things?  It’s not to save money, that’s for damn sure.  Take a look around the next time you drive around Ohio and tell me how many freaking cows you see.  Beef is dirt cheap these days if you are willing to use buttholes and head cheese.  No, the reason they use all that stuff to make sure that the patty still has some spring and juice after they finish abusing it. 

Try this as an experiment.  The next time you eat a McDonalds burger, try the patty and ask yourself if it tastes and has a consistency more like overcooked beef or poached tofu.  Yeah.  It does doesn’t it. 

Now you understand the connection I was trying to make earlier.  One solution is to take on the incredible futility of teaching underpaid fast food workers not to bury a burger alive, and the other is to create a patty that you will ensure is dead after it’s cooked.  And don’t get me wrong, I give McDonalds FULL CREDIT for coming up with that ingenious solution to the problem.  I still won’t eat there though.  Bascially, I can’t look at their food any more without realizing that I’m eating a Frankenstein monster which hovers somewhere between meat and by-products, but I do take great consolation in the irony that I am essentially offended by what the vegetarian ingredients are doing to the meat.  Sorry, I’m not one of those whiny morons who stops eating chicken because some of the industry does horrible things.  And I didn’t save any mony either because I made up the difference buying more interesting pieces of cows to cook myself.  My compromise was chosing to support responsibly raised meat because I believe that a well-kept cow is more than likely a cow who’s owner paid a little closer attention to the overall quality of his product, and more importantly…did you guess it?

Because it makes me better than you.

Ben Tomkins is a violinist, teacher, journalist and critically acclaimed composer currently living in Denver, Colorado. He hates stupidity and generally believes that the volume of one’s voice is inversely proportional to one’s knowledge of an issue. Reach Ben Tomkins at

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