Sunday, April 13, 2014

Chicken Feed

The Pasadena City Council in its infinite wisdom has temporarily put the brakes on a plan to put a Chick-fil-A fast food joint across the street from Pasadena City College.
Why? That stretch of Colorado Boulevard isn’t exactly Rodeo Drive. So aesthetics probably isn’t a consideration.
No, the problem seems to be that the drive-thru eatery would violate the provision of something called the East Colorado Boulevard Specific Plan, which sounds like a document I would read if I was battling insomnia.
But it is holy writ to at least one city councilman.
“The East Colorado Specific Plan is very precise in terms of what it allows and doesn’t allow and what its aspirations are, and this corner across from PCC is a big parcel, a corner parcel, highly visible, and the development of that parcel is of critical significance to that whole part of Colorado Boulevard,” Councilman Terry Tornek said this past week.
Well and good. But negotiations are held, compromises are made and deals are done sometimes out of the earshot of the public and the press. Especially with a company that does $4.6 billion in sales and has more lawyers on its payroll than Pasadena has poultry.
I’m betting you’ll be able to order a chicken sandwich on East Colorado before the year is done.
There are, of course, other reasons why you wouldn’t embrace a Chick-fil-A in your neighborhood.
Number one is the fact that the world doesn’t need another fast food joint. Along with mattress stores, nail salons and mini-marts, Southern California must lead the nation in restaurants that serve your meal in a bag.
But American capitalism holds that if you build it, they will come. That’s why the Chick-fil-A chain is planning on opening 108 new restaurants nationwide in the coming year. So damn the cholesterol, full speed ahead.
But wait. Chicken is good for you, right? Compared to a double chili cheeseburger topped with onion rings, yes. But you can pack on some serious pounds at a Chick-fil-A as well.
A look at the chain’s menu discloses such choices as the Spicy Chicken Sandwich Deluxe that weighs in at 570 calories, 80 milligrams of cholesterol and 1,750 milligrams of sodium. Then there’s the Grilled Chicken Club Sandwich which tips the scales at 440 calories, 90 mg of cholesterol 1,090 mg of sodium.
Want fries with that? A large order of waffle potato fries clock in at 520 calories and 240 mg of sodium. Wash it all down with a cookies and cream milkshake at 690 calories, 95 mg of cholesterol and 540 mg of sodium and Paula Deen would be proud of you.
So a sandwich, fries and a shake could add up to 1,780 calories, 175 mg of cholesterol and 2,530 mg of sodium.
That’s OK if you’re a firefighter but not so good if you’re a desk jockey.
Just for the sake of comparison, the FDA recommended daily allowance is 2,000 calories for women and 2,500 for men, 300 mg of cholesterol and 2,400 mg of sodium.
To be fair, Chick-fil-A offers healthy entrees. So do most fast food outlets. But how many people go to a place with “chicken” in its name to order a fruit salad?
Then there is the messy issue of the chain’s politics.
Just two year ago, Chick-fil-A Chief Operating Officer Dan T. Cathy made several public statements supporting the “traditional” family, saying about same-sex marriage that those who “have the audacity to define what marriage is about” were “inviting God’s judgment on our nation.”
That sounds a bit like Westboro Baptist Church, not a group you would want to be in bed with.
The company has its roots in Georgia, where they believe in grits and the gospel, and the founding family members are devout Southern Baptists.
Media reports disclosed that Chick-fil-A had donated over $5 million to groups that oppose same-sex marriage. Of this, more than $3 million was donated primarily to Christian organizations whose agendas included positions that some consider to be anti-gay.
The company’s stance actually boosted business down South. But Chick-fil-A executives who were planning to expand the business beyond the Mason-Dixon Line were not pleased over the resulting demonstrations and boycotts.
So Cathy relented.
“All of us become more wise as time goes by,” he told USA Today. “We sincerely care about all people.”
Whether his contrition is heartfelt enough to overcome the company’s discriminatory past remains to be seen.
Last, there is this “fil-A” business. I know what a filet is and how to spell it. Do the Chick folks think hard-working Americans are too stupid to understand a word with French roots? Of course, this is a company whose commercials show a cow holding a sign that says “Eat Mor Chikin.”
Maybe they need an editor.

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