The Fine Art of Dining à la Curb
OK, now we've got the disclaimer out of the way. Unless you're just looking at the pictures, or using this publication to discipline your canine for another no-no in the foyer, you've probably figured out that this extra-special supplement to Baltimore's Most Fat-Free Weekly is hinged on the conceit of an entire day of caloric intake, so take a couple of slugs of Tagamet and get ready to swallow some of fast food's greatest hits, from dusk 'til dawn.
Some idiot once said that breakfast is the most important meal of the day and now, in the manner of lobotomized dietician-parrots, lots of other idiots all over the country are saying it too. It's the same principle that compels people to forward chain letters and "humorous" e-mails. If the morning finds you compelled to get something more inside your body than a cup of coffee and few extra drags off the cigarette you fell asleep with, consider a humble mini-slab of McDonald's Hash Browns, which in its cute little paper sleeve offers a convenient way to enjoy the mighty potato, the foodstuff that blight and famine made famous, and, along with red meat, the virtual backbone of the rapid-sustenance industry. The McHashbrown is salty and, uh, potato-y, and if you hold it up in front of you at the right angle when you're driving on a sunny morning it is often translucent with grease and lovely to to behold--kinda like a little potato-prism to brighten your day.
The choice of an eye-opening morning beverage is problematic for folks who don't like coffee, or V-8, or scotch. We frequently stop at ye olde 7-Eleven for a Super Big Gulp, or even a Double Gulpsized dosage of highly sweetened caffeinated refreshment, the beauty part being that the Southland Corp. doesn't discriminate on the cola front--they let you tank up on Coke or Pepsi, which peacefully coexist side by side in the self-serve fountains along with the more legally stimulating likes of Dr. Pepper and Mountain Dew. Who says we can't all get along?
Lunchtime, for many folks the first meal of the day, often requires a more substantial feed to help stave off the inevitable 3 p.m. thud of skull-meets-desk. A generous allotment of protein is in order, and the six-inch Tuna Sub from Subway is reliable transport to our favorite stop: full belly. You can even kid yourself that you're getting a helping of vegetables by getting your crime-scene-like-plastic-glove-wearing sandwich assembler to dress up your half-foot of lunch with some of the available no-extra-charge stuff, such as lettuce, green peppers, and hots. A stop at Subway is also a chance to appreciate the never-wavering décor: Enlarged reproductions of newspaper articles and engravings depicting early subway transport provide comforting consistency for the out-of-town, emotionally vulnerable Subway habitué.
Tuna isn't everyone's, er, cup of tea, so if your pinhole-sized arteries are screaming for a burger, take a poke at the Champ, the flagship offering at Checkers, where the concept of the drive-thru is taken to its most efficient level by completely eliminating seating inside the restaurant and providing automobile approaches on both sides of the food bunker, so you can leave your fat ass inside the car where it belongs and still get more food. Size and speed are important attributes for a champ to possess in almost any endeavor, and thanks to the bulk of its beef and its streamlined delivery system, the Champ at Checkers is more than just a contendah.
There's a certain time in the day when you can't eat any more potato chips and you can't always have a vodka gimlet or a beer, so you start thinking about something sweet. Enter the kindly public persona of Dave Thomas, his network of Wendy's franchises, and the chocolaty aberration known as the Frosty, the only fast-food dessert item we can count on. The cookies and soft-serve ice cream at McD's are inconsistent and the Choco-Taco is not always available at Taco Bell, but the Frosty is just a pull of a lever away, ready to drive a frozen shaft of paralyzing ice-cream headache deep into our frontal lobes, probably into the same area that houses our chocolate-pleasure receptors.
Any follower of the dangerous macrobiotic-diet cult will tell you (in that all-too-familiar brainwashed tone) that something sweet always sends you out on the streets jonesin' for something salty, thus perpetuating your poor nutritional habits. However, right around dinner time, in defiance of that dictum, we usually find ourselves out there on those mean streets looking for a spicy yin to balance out that sugary-sweet snacktime yang. Spicy fried chicken is the staple of the Popeye's chain, but when all the teevee news shows forget about red meat for a while and start yammering away about the poultry industry and fecal contamination, we look to a quiet little Popeye's side dish called Cajun Rice, aka dirty rice, which consists of, uh, rice and some kind of ground-beef product laced with spicy, peppery goodness. Served in little styro tubs, spork-friendly Cajun Rice frequently serves as the poultry-free centerpiece of our spice-crazed Popeye's dinner experience.
Well kids, it's getting late. We've logged a lot of miles and we've downed a lot of chow from the cafeteria of the corporation known as the United States of America. It's time to head back to the halfway house, but let's make one more stop at the drive-thru window of Taco Bell, usually open until 2 a.m., for something inexpensive, filling, and possibly good for us. Namely, the lowest common denominator at the Bell--the Bean Burrito. Provided it has been properly put together and ain't leaking, the convenient tube shape of the burrito makes it perfect for late-night commuter dining, its relatively bland taste a perfect way to relax those hard-working eating muscles after a busy day.
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