America's last stronghold of world superiority rests comfortably in the country's fast food drive-up lanes. The French and the Italians may dominate fine dining, but when it comes to sheer quantity and caloric intake, Americans reign supreme. Ask any foreigner what comes to mind when they think about the U.S., and you'll invariably get a vivid description of a wide-bodied, vertically-challenged American double-fisting Big Macs. I say let 'em have their calculus and physics experts--their book wormy children may be able to calculate circumference; our kids will crush them in actual circumference. In that arena, America can't be beat...or can it?
I read a troubling article on the U.S.A. Today Travel website last week that has me concerned. The article listed ten fast food items that you can't find in the U.S., and I automatically assumed the list would consist of items that were too healthy, flavorless, or politically incorrect to succeed in the U.S. market--seaweed sandwiches in Japan, fried dog legs in China, or grilled horse meat in some far off land.
There's no doubt our American palates are not always fond of unique international flavors. Just yesterday, I learned that some Chinese consider eggs boiled in young boys' urine a delicious springtime delicacy. I'm all for a good home-cooked, do-it-yourself meal, but this is a little extreme. Having put out my share of campfires with my own fire hose, I can only imagine the stench wafting from the stove while preparing that meal...
As I started to peruse the article, I didn't find anything too surprising. Japan's Pizza Hut locations offer some very un-American topping choices, including squid, prawn, and mayonnaise. I'm happy to leave that disaster across the Pacific. French McDonald's restaurants serve mango and mandarin macaroons for dessert...clearly too healthy for the U.S. market. Chinese KFCs offer rice porridge with nauseating mix-ins like pickles and preserved eggs. Glad we don't have that one stateside...
Reading further down the list, I started to worry. Some of these foreign menu items sounded delicious and unhealthy enough to be downright...American! How are we going to maintain our weighty international leadership position if we can't get our hands (and mouths) on this stuff? What hurts the most is that it's our very own traitorous American corporations withholding these treats from our home market! We better keep our eyes on the rear view mirror, because the world is once again threatening to pass us by...
German Burger King serves up seasoned, fried balls of cheese called Chili Cheese Nuggets:
At Indian Taco Bell restaurants, patrons can top off their meals with a fine dessert of Chocodillas, a sugary twist on the standard quesadilla that features melted chocolate folded between an ice cream cone-like wafer.
And India strikes again! Don't be fooled by the name--the McPaneer has all the makings of an American classic. Taking a page out of German BK's recipe book, Indian McDonald's offers a fried slab of cheese on a sesame seed bun. I have yet to confirm whether it's actually served on a purple towel:
Fried cheese and liquid chocolate are two foundational pillars of the contemporary American food pyramid. It's a dreadful shame to watch our finest fast food joints chase the all-important dollar and offer these treats around the world, to the exclusion of the American people. If this trend continues, we'll have to turn the championship belt of obesity over to those over-educated foreigners, too. Where's our pride and dignity? Are we really going to outsource our weight problems? Is nothing sacred?!
I was too sick (and hungry) to finish reading the article. But just days later, another online article caught my eye and got me thinking that this dark (chocolate) cloud might have a silver lining after all. Yahoo Health published a "Diet Busters" edition, highlighting twenty-five "foods you should never eat." I was utterly delighted with some all-American offerings that are nowhere to be found in Europe or Asia. The list didn't even consist of those extreme, over-the-top "challenge" meals like I'd expected--these were mostly everyday foods that you might not expect would be that unhealthy.
Cold Stone Creamery more than fulfilled it's patriotic duty with the Peanut Butter and Chocolate Milkshake. This thing makes the bacon milkshake look like a salad and rice cakes:
More than 2,000 calories and 131g of saturated fat...USA!! USA!!
I found further comfort in discovering that even America's "health" food received a scolding from the author of Yahoo's article. Quaker's Natural Granola cereal--the low-fat--version, no less, is apparently loaded with sugar and is packed with unnecessary calories.
The list just kept getting better from there. Call me a hopeless optimist, but as long as America stays focused, remains sedentary, and continues filling its collective snack hole with these calorie bombs, I'm convinced we can hold off those pesky, determined foreigners.
If our friends running the fast food giants really want to make a mint, they'll come to their senses and stop depriving the American public from fine products like the Chocodilla. And what marketing genius decided that excluding fried cheese from the American fast menu was a wise--or profitable--decision?! Still, I remain confident that we'll find a way to tighten our belts, hold on to our prestigious leadership position, and keep the championship crown planted firmly on America's head where it belongs.
If you'd like to see the full food lists, grab a snack and have at it: