Joe Lavin

December 14, 2004

Would You Like Your Coronary Super-Sized?

I'm not one to think much about nutrition, but even I'm taken aback by the new Hardee's Monster Thickburger. With 1,420 calories and 107 grams of fat, this burger contains two 1/3-pound beef patties, four strips of bacon, three slices of cheese, and mayonnaise on a buttered sesame seed bun. It costs $5.49, though if you spend $7.09 to add fries and a soda they'll throw in a small defibrillator for free. I especially admire the guy at Hardee's who decided after all this to butter the sesame seed bun. That's a nice touch, but why stop there? Why not just get rid of the bun entirely and wrap the whole burger in more bacon?

So far, the reviews are mixed. Edwin Depke, 80, a burger aficionado from St. Louis, told the Associated Press, "They're really good. Eat one, and you don't have to worry about another. It's a meal." I sure hope it's a meal, Edwin. I can't say that I've ever had a Big Mac or a Whopper and suddenly needed another, but maybe that's just me. Edwin has made it to age 80 with his diet, so he may know something the rest of us don't.

William Hart, a professor of nutrition at St. Louis University, was even willing to defend the burger to the AP. "Is there a need for a burger this thick? Well, why not? It comes down to people have to take responsibility for themselves. In moderation, there's no reason you can't enjoy it." Of course, this begs the queston: is it even possible to enjoy a 1,420-calorie burger in "moderation?" That's like eating an entire carton of Twinkies in "moderation."

The Center for Science in the Public Interest, meanwhile, isn't quite so agreeable to the idea. They dubbed the Monster Thickburger "food porn," which could possibly be giving porn a bad name. They also claimed that it was "the fast-food equivalent of a snuff film," which is a slight exaggeration unless Hardee's happens to be filming their customers after they've had a coronary because of the Monster Thickburger.

Speaking of porn, just to annoy more people, Hardee's is also running a commercial that features an attractive model eating one of their thick burgers while riding a mechanical bull. As Steve Garfield pointed out in his blog, the commercial has outraged many viewers. According to the American Family Association, Hardee's has "a young woman suggestively riding a mechanical bull eating one of their thickburgers in a rather pornographic way moaning and simulating sexual arousal."

Actually, I have to disagree strongly with the American Family Association. I watched the commercial, and it wasn't nearly as good as they implied. Frankly, it could have used a lot more porn and a lot less burger. I also wondered if they had to use a stunt double for the commercial, because there's no way that skinny model has ever had a burger like that. Or perhaps Hardee's is trying to do the Reverse-Jared commercials. Let's see what she looks like after two years of these burgers.

Still, you have to hand it to Hardee's. At least they're not pretending to be health-conscious like so many other fast food restaurants. You don't have to worry about getting some "healthy" salad that has just as many calories as a Big Mac. They don't run commercials about the Hardee's diet. They just make burgers that will kill you, but they're pretty upfront about it. After all, the slogan for the Monster Thickburger is simply, "Be afraid. Be very afraid."

I suppose it says something about this country's diet when a fast food restaurant can build a successful advertising campaign around the nutritional value of cold cuts. Subway: At least our food is better than that other crap you eat. Hey, you can't really blame them. It's a winning strategy. Just hire some sanctimonious prick to be your spokesperson, and you're all set.

Admittedly, I actually like Subway, but I'm not going there for nutritional reasons. For me, the Subway diet basically means I'm too lazy to do any cooking that night. Granted, the company isn't lying in their commercials. Some of their sandwiches do contain less than five grams of fat, though that doesn't include cheese, mayonnaise, any of their tasty breads, and probably some of their meat -- in other words, the good stuff. A slice of cucumber and a cold cut certainly is better than a Big Mac, but that doesn't mean I want to live on it.

I'm guessing that the 12-inch meatball sub I had there the other night is not part of the Subway diet. On the bright side, it probably doesn't have nearly enough calories to be a part of the Hardee's diet.

©2004 Joe Lavin

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