Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Over the Top

Macaroni and cheese: Good!

Cincinnati chili: Good!

Mound of finely shredded cheddar cheese: Good!

Gold Star Chili's new Chili Mac and Cheese? Umm...ah....er....uhhh....(sound of retching)...not good.

Check out that commercial for it in the link above. Does that look remotely appetizing to you? Anyone? Anyone? Is it just me? Or is that really one of the most disturbing restaurant creations ever?

I mean, c'mon. I like a 3-Way every now and again (the chili version, of course.) But I feel guilty about it. I'm pretty sure it has no redeeming nutritional value. Several years ago the Cincinnati papers did an expose on the extrememly high (even for fast food) calories and fat grams in 3-Ways and cheese coneys and it was enough to make your liver heave. I can only imagine taking out the plain spaghetti noodles, the only part of a 3-Way not loaded with artery-cloggers, and replacing it with macaroni and cheese. It may taste good, (may), but I can't imagine it would be so earth-shattering as to be worth the thousand or so calories.

The Gold Star people have grossed me out before. Once a year they bring out the chili burger. Now, I know many restaurants serve a chili burger. That's fine. But like the Chili Mac and Cheese, they take it above and beyond. As you would expect, it's a cheeseburger (1/4 lb. of beef!) with some of their Cincinnati-style chili on top. I'm with it at that point. But what makes theirs truly special is that an ordinary bun isn't good enough. They serve their chili burger on garlic bread. Yes! It's the burger for the guy who feels his arteries are simply too clean, and who wants to make sure his co-workers get to put their CPR and portable defibrilator training to good use. I can just picture the development meeting for this item:

"Gentlemen, we need a burger!"
"Yes! Absolutely!"
"And since we're a chili chain, we should put our chili on that burger!"
"But of course!"
"And make sure we put a slice of American cheese on that beef patty."
"Naturally. It wouldn't be a cheeseburger without that!"
"And then some of our finely shredded cheddar on top of the chili."
"Why not? It makes our 3-Ways so good!"
"But it's missing something. It needs some pizzazz. What kind of bread do the people like?"
"I like garlic bread, sir."
"That's it! We'll serve it all between two slices of Texas toast soaked in garlic butter! Genius! Now, what does everybody want to order today for lunch?"

Perhaps I am being too harsh. It could be the greatest junk food creation since, well, ever. But I just don't know if I could bring myself to try it. I'm not a health food freak, by any stretch of the imagination (she says, as she pops open a Coke and nibbles on a Cacao Reserve bar). But I have never understood how anyone over the age of 25 can, without guilt, go into a Wendy's and get the triple cheeseburger with extra mayo, Biggie fries, Biggie Coke, and a 99-cent Frosty. If the nausea didn't kill me, my own guilt and calorie-counting would make me want to jump off a cliff after such an indulgence. I've seen Supersize Me and Fast Food Nation. I don't need to live it.

But we all do it, don't we? We've all done the over-the-top food thing. It's part of being American, after all. But I feel I have to draw the line somewhere. And I am drawing that line at Gold Star's Chili Mac and Cheese.

As we approach the holiday of indulgence this Thursday, let us all think about times that we should have drawn the line with food but didn't. What's the most outrageously bad-for-you thing you've ever eaten? And would you try macaroni and cheese smothered in Cincy chili smothered in cheddar cheese?

To show you I'm not a granola-eating health freak, let me get the ball rolling. Once, when I was much younger and thought that both my skinny genes and my skinny jeans would last forever, I pulled into a McDonald's to take advantage of their limited-time-only "2 for $2" double cheeseburger deal. Midway through the second burger, I realized they had given me 2 triple cheeseburgers (on sale for 2 for $3!) instead. I still finished it. And felt like crap for 2 days. And swore I would never eat that much fried beef in one sitting again, but justified it to my fiance later by saying, "But I didn't get any fries!"

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