Bashing America’s burger behemoth is a favorite pastime


When you’re the big kahuna, it seems like everybody’s looking for an opportunity to bring you down.

Being a rather mild-mannered, non-threatening small kahuna, I usually just get ignored. But I remember back in college at the University of Alabama, my best buddy was a pretty big kahuna and he always seemed to walk around with a target on his back.

He stood about 6-foot-4 and weighed in at about 275, give or take a few Quarter Pounders. Played for a spell on the football team under legendary Coach Bear Bryant until he realized that even when you’re a big kahuna, there’s often a bigger kahuna on the opposite side of the line of scrimmage.

We were fellow resident assistants in the freshman dorm and it seems that everywhere we went, somebody wanted to challenge him, provoke him somehow. He was always getting into an altercation at a local bar, a dorm dance, a frat party or a pick-up basketball game at the rec center. It didn’t help that he wasn’t the type to just turn around and walk away when someone was itching to pick a fight.

I thought about my old friend as I read yet another story bashing the big kahuna of the burger realm, that iconic, quintessentially American fast food establishment, McDonald’s.

For some reason, McDonald’s has always been subject to ridicule and derision. I remember even back when I was a kid 1,000 years ago we sang a song spoofing a McDonald’s TV jingle that was popular at the time.

It went something like, “McDonald’s is your kind of place, hamburgers in your face, French fries between your toes, dill pickles up your nose. And don’t forget our vanilla shakes, they come from polluted lakes…”

I’ve never really quite understood the widespread contempt for McDonald’s. I mean, it doesn’t seem to me that the company’s food is any more or less synthetic, processed, artificial, unhealthy or gut-busting than a lot of other restaurants out there.

One thing I do know, however, is that my 13-year-old daughter will absolutely, positively not even go near the place. Just mention the name and a wave of nausea flushes over her face.

She started to have her suspicions about McDonald’s after she learned of the 2004 documentary called Super Size Me that got the food purists and the health care community all in a froth.

Out to prove a point, enterprising filmmaker Morgan Spurlock ate nothing but McDonald’s food for 30 straight days. He gained almost 25 pounds at the end of his experiment and reported a long list of physical and psychological maladies from high cholesterol to mood swings.

That’s all my daughter – who is a dancer and likes to keep her shape – needed to hear. In a classic case of selective information consumption, she completely ignored the high school science teacher in Iowa who conducted an experiment of his own.

He ate nothing but McDonald’s food for 90 days, but restricted his calories by opting mostly for all the healthier choices on the menu board and also walked for 45 minutes a day. He reported dropping 37 pounds and improving his health significantly.

The teacher pointed out to his biology students that it was the caloric intake, the moderate exercise and the right choices that made the difference.

But none of that mattered to my daughter after she saw a video about what happens when you look at a Chicken McNugget under a microscope. Once she saw the bright bits of iridescent blue Lord-knows-what, Ronald McDonald was dead to her.

Knowing of her contempt for the Golden Arches, I asked her if the other students at her school felt the same way. Her response was that a few of them believe Ronald McDonald is part of the international Illuminati secret society and possibly even masterminded the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Love or hate McDonald’s, it’s going to be quite a while before the burger behemoth ever completely fades into oblivion. The company has more than 35,000 restaurants across the globe and is adding an average of two new franchises somewhere around the world every week.

While all the bashing and piling on have certainly taken their toll as evidenced by lower corporate earnings over the past two years, McDonald’s sold $31.1 billion worth of hamburgers last year. Gulp! The average McD’s pulled in $2.5 million in sales last year while the average Wendy’s grossed $1.6 million and Burger King made $1.2 million.

Personally, I have no beef with the burger giant. Every once in a while when the mood strikes, I’m going to pull into a McDonald’s and partake of one of those delicious custom-ordered Double Quarter Pounders without questioning what’s actually inside it that makes it taste so dang delicious.

And when the weather turns hot, I will occasionally beat the heat by getting in the drive-thru line and ordering one of those scrumptious Oreo McFlurries. The only problem is that half the time the dairy machine is down for repairs, just when my mouth has already commenced watering for a cool, satisfying dessert.

Now there’s something that red-haired clown and I really need to discuss.

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