This place matters

This place matters

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Don't hate the player

The other day, a friend pointed me to this article, a columnist's response to Times' food columnist Mark Bittman referring to McDonald's oatmeal as "another corporate ploy." 
I don't want to wade into the oatmeal myself, but the article put me in mind of something something. When it comes to corporations, we seem to confuse successful with evil.
Take McDonald's. This dude once told me that he was boycotting McDonald's because he watched Super Size Me. Why McDonald's, exactly? If you ate nothing but Wendy's every day for a month, would you be better off? Eating McDonald's three meals a day and then blaming McDonald's that you're sick is kind of like eating a pound of butter every day and then blaming cows for your obesity. I don't hear anybody at McDonald's telling me I'm supposed to eat there every day. 
Arby's has always framed itself as a sort-of anti-McDonald's - their food isn't greasy or fried or unhealthy, right? Dude, a turkey sub from Arby's has more calories than a Big Mac. A Big Mac's got 540 calories and 29 grams of fat. Arby's turkey sub has 560 and 23 grams. But at least with a Big Mac, you know you're eating crap. Nobody eats a Big Mac because they're trying to lose weight. Heck, there are salads on the Wendy's menu that have FORTY SEVEN grams of fat. It's a salad! How do you even get that much fat into a salad? Deep fried lettuce?
And it's not just fast food that's unhealthy. I bet that there's not a single meal on the McDonald's menu that has half as many calories as the smothered fried chicken meal at your local Amish restaurant. Are the Amish evil? (Well, to tell the truth, I've never trusted them myself. Nobody likes baskets that much. Nobody.)

And then there's Starbucks. There are thousands of chains of coffee shops whose business practices are far shadier than Starbucks. They're not saints over at Starbucks (the way they burn their beans is downright unholy), but they're no more evil than most other chains, they're just more successful. I just read some stupid article about how Starbucks is evil because they're making people fat with all their fancy Frappuccinos. You do realize you're not required to drink those, right? And that there are at least, oh, 50 Starbucks drinks that I can think of off the top of my head that have no more calories than skim milk? Like coffee, tea, iced coffee, a skim cappuccino, a skim latte, an Americano, a steamed milk, a latte flavored with one of their vast selection of sugar-free syrups... 
Yeah, Starbucks put your favorite coffee shop out of business back in the 90s. Mine too. That's commerce, baby. Corporations exist to make money; it doesn't make sense to only hate the ones who do it well.


Anonymous said...

Did I write this entry? I make this argument on a regular basis. Nobody is holding a gun to these people's heads telling them that they have to eat at McD's.

Bob Severns said...

You are a gifted writer and I much enjoyed this one