Four days of non-stop fast-food: one chain per day. How will I cope? The adventure begins, inevitably, at McDonald's.
About The Takeaway Torture Test
I travel a lot, and I frequently eat takeaway food from major chains when I do. It's cheap, it's convenient and it saves paying $20+ for a hotel breakfast. But that approach involves an element of choice, and I'm not doing it repeatedly. It's an occasional treat, and one that I control.
Recently I found myself wondering: how would I feel if I had to eat from a single venue even three times in a row? There are people out there who have eaten almost nothing but Big Macs for years; a tiny part of me wants to find out what that's like on a more modest scale. The Takeaway Torture Test is how I'm doing it, restricting myself to one chain a day over a four-day period and noting my reactions.
By my usual standards for obsessive and self-punishing behaviour, it's a casual project. I'm not doing this for more than one day at each outlet, and I'm not doing an exhaustive assessment of nutrition or my health. Morgan Spurlock already covered a lot of that territory in his documentary Super Size Me, so I'm not sure there's much to learn on that particular point. (I remember writing a story about that movie when it came out and the local McDonald's chief dodging requests for an interview with the excuse that he was working at his daughter's school canteen. Ahem.)
I'm also not fully tracking nutritional goals (as I did with Lifehacker's Mastercheap project). I'm going to eat what I feel tempted by while on the road and muse on the consequences.
So Day 1 found me in Melbourne, staying with friends as I usually do. The feature event of the evening is a birthday party for a 10-year old, and McDonald's is the party menu of choice. So today will be a Maccas day. And that means dropping the kids to school and then heading to the nearest branch for breakfast. Annoyingly, this already sucks.
Breakfast: A Late Start
Not because I mind the breakfast, but because it means that I'm not eating breakfast until nearly 0930. I'm an early riser; at this point, I've been working for the better part of four hours. It's all I can do to hold off long enough to photograph the meal.
My regular McBreakfast is the Bacon & Egg McMuffin Value meal, but I decided to indulge in the Barcelona Omelette, one of the special meals McDonald's is running as part of its Olympics promotion. It was fine, but I probably wouldn't deliberately choose it again. I should have also remembered to stick to the black coffee; everything else is a bit iffy. But I was hungry. I didn't really care. One minor detail: the on-site Wi-Fi wasn't working. Given how busy the staff were, I decided that complaining would be futile.
Lunch: I've Stacked It
Lunch involved heading to a different shopping centre (which had working Wi-Fi for what that's worth) and choosing which path I wanted to go down. Chicken was out (I'll be ODing on that tomorrow), and I've never thought the fish worth the trouble. Sticking with the Olympic theme, I decided to indulge in the Sydney Stack, which essentially adds pineapple and beetroot to a standard burger.
As a combination, it should be appealing, but there's a structural challenge. The standard roll used on virtually all McDonald's burgers, including this one, isn't quite up to the task of holding all that extra vegetable heft. So it tastes good, but it falls apart fairly quickly. This doesn't bother me too much in a food court, but the risk of accidentally staining yourself with beetroot juice seems high.
Two Olympic meals in, and my main objection isn't one of content: it's one of convenience. I've had to go out specially to pick up McDonald's on both occasions. I'm away from my home town, and even if I wasn't, I don't drive. So convenience food is actually taking me a little more effort than just eating in. But I should stop complaining and recognise that the exercise is good for me.
Dinner: The Importance Of Being Specific
As I noted before, dinner was as part of a birthday event for my 10-year old honorary Melbourne nephew. If you want to see a lot of McDonald's demolished very quickly, offer it to a gang of pre-teen boys who are just itching to get back to playing on an Xbox 360. The food will not last long, as you can see here.
I made a procedural mistake with this meal. I hadn't asked my friends for a specific menu item, figuring that I'd end up with either a Big Mac or a Quarter Pounder from one of those bulk deals McDonald's often offer. But instead, they decided I wouldn't just want a standard burger and so got me . . . a Sydney Stack. Still nice, still soggy, but not maximising the variety as much as might otherwise have been possible. Then again, if I'm trying to mimic the life of a burger addict, maybe that's what I should be doing.
I don't feel bloated, I don't feel like I've overdosed on caffeine — but I'm glad I won't be eating McDonald's tomorrow. The qualifier? It's going to be an all KFC day. That could get tricky, not least when it comes to breakfast . . .