Sunday, January 27, 2013

Hail to the Chef

Lost in all the hoopla surrounding the inauguration this past week was a beef about the ceremonial lunch, a spread that would have made William Howard Taft happy.

Taft, if you'll recall, was the original presidential foodie, a man so rotund that he once got stuck in the White House bathtub.

This particular menu - lobster tails in New England clam chowder sauce, bison with a red potato horseradish cake and apple pie with sour cream ice cream - clocked in at 3,000 calories.

It's no wonder that following lunch, the President and First Lady walked several blocks during their trip from the Capitol to the White House reviewing stands.

Alas, the Obamas would have had to leg it for 13 hours to burn off 3,000 calories, which would have put them somewhere in Virginia the following day.

Instead of actually eating perhaps they should have lip-synched it. There was a lot of that going on during Inauguration Day.

Not surprisingly, the menu caused the wing-nut nation to go off half-baked, the juice of a thousand cheeseburgers dripping on their keyboards as they accused Michele Obama of hypocrisy because of her campaign against childhood obesity.

That argument held as much air as a flat souffle because the First Lady had little to do with the menu. It was the handiwork of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, a group that apparently has no problem embracing bipartisanship when it comes to ordering lunch.

Meanwhile, while the Inaugural food fight was taking place, a group called the Center for Science in the Public Interest was revealing that, special occasions notwithstanding, we, too, can sit down to a 3,000-calorie meal anytime we want.

The organization annually passes out its Extreme Eating Awards, which is in fact more of a warning than an honor.

This year apparently raised the bar. "We think this year that this is the worst of some of the worst," said Jayne Hurley, CUSP senior nutritionist.

Singled out for recognition was the Cheesecake Factory, offering something called Bistro Shrimp Pasta which involves battered shrimp, fresh mushrooms and arugula tossed with spaghettis in a basil-garlic-lemon cream sauce. Calorie count: 3,120 with 89 grams of saturated fat.

That same restaurant chain also clocks in with Crispy Chicken Costalgia. According to CUSP, most people wouldn't sit down to eat a 12-piece bucket of Original Recipe Kentucky Fried Chicken all by themselves. Yet the Cheesecake Factory somehow crams about that many calories into a single serving of this dish, although the bucket of KFC has less than half the saturated fat, "only" two days' worth as opposed to the 4.5 days' worth in the costalgia. In fact, this dish has more calories (2,610) than any steak, chop, or Burger meal on the Cheesecake Factory'as giant menu.

Then there's Johnny Rockets bacon cheddar double burger, sweet potato fries and Big Apple shake, 3,500 calories and 88 grams of saturated fat. The shake actually contains a slice of apple pie and has 1,140 calories all on its own.

Breakfast anyone? IHOP serves a deep-fried steak with gravy, two fried eggs, deep-fried potatoes, and two buttermilk pancakes. It's 1,760 calories, 23 grams of saturated fat, 3,720 mg of sodium, and 11 teaspoons of added sugar. CUSP says that's like having five McDonald's Egg McMuffins sprinkled with 10 packets of sugar.

How about something healthier? You may want to avoid Smoothy King's peanut power plus grape smoothy which has 1,460 calories and 22 teaspoons of sugar.

Chili's full rack of baby back ribs with Shiner Bock BBQ sauce comes with homestyle fries and cinnamon apples at 2330 calories, 45 grams of saturated fat and 6,490 milligrams of salt.

And finally, there's Deep Dish Macaroni & 3-Cheese at Uno Chicago Grill which has four cups of pasta; Cheddar, Paramnesia, and Romano cheeses; an Alfredo sauce made from heavy cream, cheese, rendered chicken fat, and butter; and a crushed Ortiz Cracker topping. That pencils out at a day's worth of calories, three-and-a-half days' worth of saturated fat (71 grams), and two days' worth of sodium.

We surely must be one nation, with burgers and fries for all.

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