Jean Barker

1020 calories in 5 minutes!

2015-06-12 09:40

Jean Barker

“America” and “food” are as intrinsically linked in my mind as America and “war”, or America and “great films”, or America and “cars”, or America and the strangest question of all time: “Where is South Africa?”

But exactly when did eating become a competitive solo sport practiced in the privacy of your car on the way home from a bar? Never, for me.

I’m obsessed with good, cheap food, so California is paradise for me. I’ve eaten from at least five regions in China since I came here. I’ve had sushi so cheap and yet delicious it should be classified as pornography. I’ve shared a crunchy plate of Burmese tea leaf salad. I know what real Mexican food is – and, no, SA, it’s not “tequila”. And yes, I’ve wolfed down amazing hamburgers, drunk and sober.

And yet, with the best food from all over the world on offer in the USA, the big money is still in fast food and big food, rather than good food.

Subway is top of the US mass-feeding pops, selling millions of those heavily-preserved, hauntingly-taste-free bread sandwiches laced with Lego-meat-toppings and triangular cheese formations, every day.

However though Subway flog us junk food dressed up as health food, they’re by far the healthiest option in the top 10. Hot on their heels, McDonalds (cattlekind’s ISIS?). Hot and dripping with oil on their heels, “Pizza” Hut, Burger King, KFC, Wendy’s, Domino’s Pizza, Taco Bell with something Mexican-eish, and Arby’s – a burger joint you’ve never heard of in SA.

As you can see from this list, almost everything in the top 10 isn’t so much fast food, as fast fat. These “restaurants” are the beauty parlour for the website People of Walmart. It’s almost come to be patriotic to eat too much and have problems with your knees cause you’re really, really fat.

The success of these fast fat chains leads the various companies that are trying to outdo the top 10 to take desperate measures to distinguish their food as more insanely bad for you, or cheaper, than KFC, Pizza Hut, Burger King, or Taco Bell.

This isn’t an easy challenge to meet. To give you some idea of what competitors are up against, let me inform you that Taco Bell recently advertised this...Thing: Tortilla chips and American cheese inside another tortilla chip with minced beef and fake sour cream.

They promote this on TV with the tagline: “Only at Taco Bell”. Really? Do they promise? I pray to any gods not currently occupied finding parking spaces for lazy people in major cities that it’s “only at Taco Bell”. This junk is the Ebola of food.

But Taco Bell arn’t even the worst. “Pizza” Hut features a bacon crust bacon pizza...and KFC put the “dog” in bowl, when they found a way to make people pay for the leftovers by stirring chicken and mielies into some random carbs and renaming it in a snarky nod to hipsterdom.

Surely, it couldn’t be more disgusting than that?

Well, that’s where you’re wrong

It’s not easy to outdo Taco Bell, or KFC, or “Pizza” Hut. But the great thing about America is that anything really is possible. Yes, it really is.

Enter Carls Jr, a burger joint, who recently released this monstrosity...a burger that – without adding fries or a drink – allows you to consume the daily recommended calorie allowance for most women under 5.7ft in about five minutes flat, sans meaningful nutrition to speak of. They also celebrate this feat by advertising it using models who only subsist entirely on the nutritional elements in their bikini tops and treats of frozen liquidised kale.

While their advertising is heavily ironic, because people are just never quite stupid enough to satisfy corporate greed, their food still kills.

- Jean earned an MFA in Directing and Screenwriting and works in the LA film industry. She tweets as @jeanbarker and blogs pictures of signs and more, here. She will be back.

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