Never Eat More Thank You Can Lift; that’s a quote from Miss Piggy and how appropriate to this particular missive.
Some of you may recall my Baconator post from back in July; it is one of my most popular posts and people continue to read it regularly. But I must say that I am feeling very insecure about that post now as I clearly missed the big story. Compared to what you can order up at the Heart Attack Grill in Phoenix, AZ, the Baconator is decidedly so last year (or maybe so last meal).
My friend and assistant, also named Lisa, pointed out this article to me, which profiles John Basso and his cardiology themed restaurant. The Rainforest Café has jungle animals, the Hard Rock Café has guitars, and the Heart Attack Grill has portable defibrillators, diners dressed in hospital gowns and waitresses dressed as naughty nurses (that in itself might give some patrons a heart attack). They give child diners candy cigarettes to go with their meals. Nice touch. I’m guessing that even the Marlboro Man would be impressed by that level of chutzpah.
The signature meal at the Heart Attack Grill is the “quadruple bypass burger”. Clearly the Wendy’s Baconator people are amateurs. If the Baconator is personified by Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Quadruple Bypass Burger would be personified by Tyrannosaurus Rex: big, bad and deadly.
Heart Attack Grill’s spokes-mega-model is a 600-pound former college football player who looks like his days are seriously numbered (you can see his video testimonial here—brace yourself). He probably won’t be lonely in the afterlife, however, as people who weigh more than 350 pounds eat for free at the Heart Attack Grill. In other words, they are on the fast track to their very own personal end of days scenario. The restaurant takes little financial risk feeding these people for free because God knows they aren’t going to be patrons for long. In fact, the Heart Attack Grill says that if you finish one of their quadruple-bypass burger meals, a nurse will push you to your car in a wheelchair. I am guessing they could save time and money by just trussing you and throwing you into a pit out back—may as well cut out the middleman. Business extension opportunity: Heart Attack Funeral Home and Cemetery; our motto: Make Ours Your Last Supper.
The best part of this story, by the way is that the owner of this restaurant used to own a chain of Jenny Craig Weight Loss Centers and serve as a personal trainer. This is like the chief of police turning in his badge to start a chain of murder-for-hire take-out spots. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, I guess.
This story about what has to be the worst possible eating opportunity in America really hit a chord for me last week, during which I also attended the15th Annual American Diabetes Association (ADA) Leaders Forum Luncheon. Over a meal of healthy chicken and vegetables, it was pointed out that more people will die from diabetes this year than from AIDS and breast cancer combined. Diabetes scarfs up $1 out of every $5 healthcare dollars in the U.S. today, so if you are worried about the cost of our healthcare system, you might want to pass on the quadruple bypass burger.
The theme of the ADA Luncheon was, “Corn-Fed Nation: Fresh Ideas for Fixing America’s Food.” There were three speakers, the first of which was a 13-year-old girl and her assistance dog, Colton. The girl has a severe case of Type 1 diabetes and Colton has been trained to smell when her blood sugar is dropping to unhealthy levels. It was a pretty amazing story and the kid was remarkably poised as she addressed the room of about 500 venture capitalists and entrepreneurs. Cute dog too.
The second two speakers were a tag team of life-long friends, Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis, who made a documentary called King Corn (see a review at this link). They showed some clips from the movie, which were both powerful and funny as hell. On one level the movie is about these two best friends who decide to move to Iowa to grow an acre of corn – after finding out (through laboratory hair analysis) that their bodies were comprised of more than 50% corn byproducts. They procure an acre of land and even get government subsidies for their farm, raising 10,000 pounds of corn that is entirely unfit for human consumption, except that is exactly who ends up eating it after processing.
But really the movie is about how damaged our food chain has become, infested by high fructose corn syrup that is omnipresent in our food and by corn-fed livestock that grow up to become…quadruple bypass burgers. Among the tidbits mentioned by Cheney and Ellis are that 1 acre of corn can produce 57,000 cans of soda and that Americans eat 130 pounds of sweeteners yearly but only 20 pounds of lettuce. Even more stunning in this era of a two front war: 12% of enlistment age men and 35% of enlistment age women are ineligible to serve in the military due to their high body fat content. In this day and age, I guess, you don’t have to move to Canada to avoid a reinstituted draft; all you need to do is order yourself some “flatliner fries” at the Heart Attack Grill.
At this time of Thanksgiving, I think it’s pretty amusing that the Native American’s gift to the white men was corn. We may have stolen their land, but I can’t help but think they are getting the last laugh.
Cheney and Ellis mentioned that they made significant efforts to become less corny by striving to eat entirely corn-free for one month. They succeeded in getting their body composition down to about 30% corn but could do better because they couldn’t avoid the high fructose corn syrup in toothpaste, Tylenol tablet coatings and other insidious places you wouldn’t even think it might show up. To atone for their corn field, these guys started a pretty hilarious truck-garden in New York City and have been driving it around challenging kids to grow veggie gardens in the weirdest vessels they can think of. They showed pictures of mini-gardens planted in boots, radio flyers, printers, tennis balls, lunch pails and toilet bowls. Their next project is a documentary called Truck Farm and they are on a mission to spread organic fruit and vegetable awareness to school children nationwide by making it fun to grow these items at schools and elsewhere.
What was great about these King Corn guys is the way they are trying to make healthy eating fun eating and how they are starting by teaching kids through a hands-on approach that makes them want to reap what they sow and laugh while they’re doing it. As Cheney and Ellis so poignantly put it “If you are what you eat and you don’t know what you eat, how do you know who you are?” I realize that the Heart Attack Grill also uses humor and sarcasm to make fun of itself, but does anyone really want to be a quadruple bypass burger? You are what you eat indeed.