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January, 2010:

Taco Bell founder dies [sad]

Taco Bell at Milton AvenueIt has been a sad month for American food pioneers.

Last week came word that SpaghettiOs inventor Donald Goerke passed away. Today we learned that Glen W. Bell, the man who founded Taco Bell and popularized Tex-Mex in America died as well. He was 86 years old.

“His innovative business acumen started out of humble beginnings and created one of the nation’s largest restaurant chains in Taco Bell. Mr. Bell introduced an entire nation to the taco and Mexican cuisine,” he added.

A grateful nation mourns their passing.

Refills, Big Macs and free Wi-Fi for all [McDonald’s]

Now all of these McDonald's restaurants have free refills and Wi-Fi!

Internet access, just like water and soda refills, is something that wants to be free. And thanks to the good men and women at McDonald’s, the dream of free Wi-Fi is now available at hotspots from coast to coast.

Last week, McDonald’s began offering free Wi-Fi at 11,500 of its 14,000 locations nationwide. Previously patrons had to pay $2.95 for 2-hours of access.

The free Wi-Fi rollout is likely another shot in McDonald’s ongoing war with coffee giant Starbucks (where patrons only get limited free Wi-Fi if they have a registered Starbucks card). But whatever the reason, the fact that McDonald’s locations blanket the nation means that many small towns and truck stops across America will be getting their first free Wi-Fi access.

God Bless America and God Bless McDonald’s.

A Free Refills & Why I Love America theme song?

I’ve never heard of a blog that had a theme song, but I suppose that is not a good reason to not have one.

Anyway, this landed in my inbox nearly a year ago but somehow slipped my mind until now. If there was ever a song that summed up the important differences between the US and Europe, this is it (hint: it has to do with Twinkies and irregular showering).

Here are the lyrics to “Over There” by Jonathan Coulton. If you like the song, you can find it on his Smoking Monkey album. And if anyone has a clue as to what he is talking about in the fifth verse, please share in the comments!

Take a boat, take a plane
Go to London, go to Spain
Take a train from Amsterdam to Monaco
Take a loved one if you think
They enjoy things that stink
Cause everything is different over there

When you’re in Belgium you can eat
A lot of mayonnaise with your frites
And no one will say hey that’s too much mayonnaise
Enjoy a German sausage hall
Eat an Italian meatball
But I hope you don’t want a Twinkie
Because they don’t have Hostess Twinkies over there

Over there you’ll never feel at ease
Cause there’s not much soap and there’s too much cheese
And everyone wears clogs and rides on trains
Over there they’ll make you regret that you ever
Saved their asses in World War II
Don’t make me go over there

Cause I enjoy my freedom here
And I enjoy light-colored beer
I like to take showers
And I like to brush my teeth every day
Twice a day

They say that there’s a place in France
Where the naked ladies dance
You can find it if you ask around
And there’s a hole there in the wall
Where the men can see it all
The men don’t care
Because they chew their underwear
And the underwear they chew costs a dollar ninety-two
Men go around with their ding dongs hanging down

Over there you’ll never feel at ease
Cause there’s not much soap and there’s too much cheese
And everyone wears clogs and rides on trains
Over there they’ll make you regret that you ever
Saved their asses in World War II
Don’t make me go over there
No don’t make me go over there
Don’t make me go over there

What do you think, should it be the official Free Refills & Why I Love America theme song?

(Hat tip: Dan H)

The Nanny State vs Coca-Cola [just the facts]

01fat_650Having banned smoking in bars, posted calorie counts on restaurant menus and banished trans-fats from the city’s commercial kitchens, the great nanny that is the New York City Health Department has decided to take aim at soft drinks.

Of course an outright prohibition of something as American as Coca-Cola is a political non-starter. And the American people are pretty suspicious of efforts to tax soft drinks.

So the New York City Health Department decided to try an ad campaign, hoping to shock and disgust people enough that they give up the refreshing taste of Coca-Cola. The ads, which are running in NYC subways, depict a bottle of coke pouring out human fat.

They are gross. So gross, in fact, that they succeeded in getting me worried about the health implications of my 1-2 daily cans of Coke. So I decided to do some research.

Fortunately, the good men and women of the Coca-Cola Company have produced a flashy website and informative FAQ addressing just these issues.

Here are the facts, courtesy of Coca-Cola:

Q. Can sparkling beverages be blamed for causing obesity?

A. People consume many different foods and beverages, so no one single food or beverage alone is responsible for people being overweight or obese. But all calories count, whatever food or beverage they come from, including calories from our beverages.

Weight gain is the result of consuming more calories than are expended through basic metabolic processes and physical activity. We believe that all foods and beverages can have a place in an active healthy lifestyle that combines a balanced, sensible diet with regular physical activity. Consumers who want to reduce the calories they consume from beverages can choose from our continuously expanding portfolio of no- and low-calorie beverages, and full calorie options in smaller portion sizes.

Q. Are sparkling beverages full of “empty calories”?

A. Sparkling beverages are refreshing beverages that hydrate. They also provide carbohydrate calories (energy) that can help supply the energy necessary for daily activities. People who don’t want to consume extra calories from their beverages can choose from among a wide range of low-calorie and no-calorie Coca-Cola products in both sparkling and still varieties.

Q. Does Coca-Cola hydrate?

A. All beverages hydrate. Coca-Cola, as well as most other sparkling and still beverages, contains more than 85 percent water. Some studies have shown that consuming flavored beverages encourages greater consumption of liquid, which keeps the body better hydrated.

It is good that Coke is a wholesome part of our daily diet. After all, we Americans consume massive quantities of it. At over 50 gallons per-person per-year, we drink more soft drinks than milk, coffee and juices combined. But if you still don’t enjoy Coke for some reason (perhaps because you’re a Communist), never fear, the Coca-Cola Company has other options for you to enjoy. Talk about Corporate Social Responsibility!

Q. If I don’t want to drink Coca-Cola, what are other options?

A. People can count on The Coca-Cola Company to provide a delicious array of beverage choices—both with calories and without—that help you to stay hydrated, refreshed and nourished. There is a beverage for every lifestyle, life stage and life occasion, from our regular sparkling and still beverages to our no- and low- calorie and our caffeine-free and fortified beverages. In North America alone, we offer more than 130 beverage choices including sparkling beverages, water, juices and juice drinks, tea and energy drinks. Among the brands you may not recognize as a part of the Coca-Cola portfolio are Minute Maid®, vitaminwater®, Odwalla®, Dasani®, the Simply line of juices and ades, and FUZE®.

Frank Luntz on the most American products

I’m reading pollster Frank Luntz’s new book “What Americans Really Want…Really.” It is a great read, just like his previous book. I’m only about a chapter in, but am thoroughly enjoying the grand pronouncements Luntz makes about Americans and Americanness.

Take, for example, the lengthy table in the introduction answering the question “What  Do Americans Really Want Right Now?” that I’ve posted an excerpt from below:


For the most part I think Luntz is spot on (though it is unclear what these pronouncements are based on, but that doesn’t matter). What, after all, is more American than Coca-Cola, Walmart, Pick-up Trucks and McDonald’s?

I’m a little less sure about the beer pronouncement. Bud Lite, after all, tastes like, well… Bud Lite. But the fact that Bud Lite comes in a can gives it a serious edge over the fancy bottled competition: it can be shotgunned. And everyone knows that is the most-American way to drink a beer.

Spaghetti Os creator dies [American Patriots]

Spaghettio's - 347The AP is reporting that Spaghetti Os creator and great American Food Patriot Donald Goerke has died. He was 83 years old.

The 35-year veteran of Campbell’s not only developed Spaghetti Os, but also helped introduce Campbell’s Chunky Soup.

From the AP:

Goerke was marketing research director of Campbell’s Franco-American line in the early 1960s when his group started dreaming up pasta in shapes that would appeal to kids. He chose the o’s. They were marketed with the unforgettable tagline, “Uh-oh, Spaghetti Os.”

Goerke retired in 1990 and passed away last Sunday from heart failure. He did not live to see his famous product deflavorized by heath advocates.

[via Consumerist]

I am (cave)man, hear me roar! [with video]

The New York Times had a great fake trend story over the weekend about the emergence of something they call the “caveman lifestyle.” According to the Times, practitioners of this “lifestyle,” which involves eating lots of meat and running about Central Park on all fours, seek to emulate the slim build of cavemen by, well, behaving like them.

I’m not sure about scurrying around the underbrush of Central Park, but in a city where every other restaurant is serving up locally grown, fair trade, gluten-free, kosher soy salads, it is hard not to find the meat-based diet of the caveman enticing.

Of course, for those of you who don’t want to purchase a chest freezer in which to store freshly killed meat like the weirdos interviewed in the Times story, there is always the high-protein, macho lifestyle promoted in Burger King’s Texas Double Whopper ads.

(RSS readers may need to click through to see video)

Where Starbucks goes Milk is sure to follow [maps]

I have a weakness for maps—particularly maps of the interactive sort that the New York Times produces from time to time. Their latest map out yesterday plots the movie queues of Netflix subscribers by zip code. The result is hardly surprising: movie taste varies dramatically socioeconomic lines.

Clicking through the NYC map, it seems that the most dramatic example of this was Milk—which apparently is obligatory viewing for residents of Manhattan, Long Island City and gentrified Brooklyn. In the graphic below I’ve compared Milk viewership with that of Paul Blart: Mall Cop, which is fairly popular in the outer boroughs and suburban New Jersey but seemingly not welcome in Manhattan.Milk---Starbucks-map

The map of Milk viewership brought to mind the Starbucks’ colonization of NYC map I posted a few months ago. Though I suppose it is hardly surprising that they are so similar.01starbucks-graf01

I’m not sure what to take away from this, other than the fact that my own Netflix queue, which reads like an Adam Sandler’s greatest hits list, is probably low-brow enough to get me barred from most Manhattan Co-Ops.

Eat fast food to save time and money

BK adFast food is a wonderful, all-American thing.

Not only is delicious, ubiquitous and available from drive-thru windows, but it is also a tremendous value.

In the spirit of New Year’s weight loss resolutions, the folks over at Ecoslaon took a look at the calorie counts of a few delicious fast food items. First on their list was the latest cheese burger from Burger King. Of course the authors saw the 2.2 hours of swimming that it would take to burn off the 680 calories in a BK Double Cheese Burger as a stroke against the sandwich.

But what they didn’t consider is that BK is selling this mountain of goodness for only $1. You read that correctly, you can buy an entire BK Double Cheese Burger and the 680 calories of energy it packs for the cost of an apple. That is one hell of a value.

Eating nothing but these burgers, the average American could meet most of their daily energy needs for only $3 per day! (If you follow this diet, I might suggest also taking a daily vitamin. I recommend Flintstones Complete).

And chowing down on fast food can save time as well. To get the energy contained in just one BK Double Cheese Burger, you would need to eat 5-6 apples. Not only would that cost you around $4-5 dollars at the typical farmers’ market, but it would take you the better part of an hour to eat them all. Fast food burgers, on the other hand, are conveniently designed to be shoved into the mouth and eaten in two or three large bites–allowing us to ingest hundreds of calories in just a few seconds.

When it comes to saving time and money, fast food wins every time.

God Bless Fast Food and God Bless America!

Not all cereal boxes are created equal [photos]

IMG_0180Michigan might have its share of problems—like a crippling depression, budget crisis and massive brain-drain—but one thing it still has going for it is sensible sized cereal boxes. Considering that breakfast cereal is one of the things that make America great, this is no small asset.

When I was back in town for XMAS, I stopped by the grocery store and noticed that the shrink-ray that has been plaguing the cereal aisles on the East Coast for years seems to have passed over the Midwest.

My favorite cereal—Lucky Charms—came in a massive 1.5 pound package for a reasonable $5.50. That is nearly twice as much cereal-per-box as is available at my local grocery store in New York, where the largest size has decreased from 14oz to 11.5oz over the past six months. Of course, they still charge $5.99 per box for the smaller size.

Needless to say I was sure to bring a few Michigan-sized boxes of Lucky Charms back to New York with me. And yes, they are the good kind that still have the full dose of sugar that we know and love.

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