Friday, April 06, 2007

The Happy Meal Ban

Every now and again, I pretend that this is 1950 and that I’m the only bread winner in this household, when I put my foot down on an issue. It makes me feel better that a grievance was lodged, at least, but whatever I demand be changed or instituted or halted immediately—be it the pile of Kara’s shoes that accumulates around the house, the mandatory no-spending months I enact or the Family Weekend House Cleaning Extravaganzas I host from time to time (where nobody shows)—doesn’t stay on the law books for very long. They die in committee or are vetoed by the rest of the family…how the kids earned a vote is beyond me. When I was a kid, my brother and I got only honorary votes while my parents both had two each, but it really didn’t matter as my dad was famous for pulling out the “top of the pyramid” pocket veto, for which what he says, goes.

Chalk it up to changing times, two-income family or a insurmountably stubborn wife, but I don’t get to invoke “top of the pyramid” rights and any of my more controversial amendments to the family constitution are all but ignored (at least until I forget about them). I enjoy mixed feelings. For one, it would be nice to have every word I speak instantly become law obeyed by all; but on the other, I don’t like to make all of the decisions concerning the family. It makes me feel selfish and frankly, it’s a lot of pressure, under which I don’t care to be.

I’ll decide when the lawn needs to be mowed, the cars need a change of oil (which reminds me) and when the dog should stop barking. All matters pertaining to the kids’ civil rights and liberties I’ll gladly leave up to Kara, and on my daddy days, I do my best to make sure they stay in one piece until she returns. Never mind the header Matthew took off the sidewalk and into the planters at the mall the other day—nothing but a pair of legs dangling in the air. It was funny until he started bleeding. But then it was funny again.

Today’s mandatory law is brought to you by the not so good folks at McDonalds and their attempt to poison the world with tiny chunks of “chicken” and to fill up our houses with made-in-China plastic, useless crap that will either stop working after about eight minutes or never work at all.

After dance class, I took the brood to Sam’s Club to buy some giant food, and on the way home I suggested that we stop at Wendy’s for some chicken nuggets, because I’m convinced that, somehow improbable, Wendy’s is healthier than McDonalds… I doubt it but sometimes the wool looks nice over my eyes. Instantly, Natalie pipes up, “Let’s go to Old McDonalds,” and I’m not sure if she heard my groan of disapproval, but then she added, “C’mon Daddy, it’ll be fun.”

Fun indeed. Did you know that in a four-piece chicken nugget Happy Meal, there is 370 calories and 13 grams of fat? And that’s the healthy one with the apples substituted for the fries (get the cheeseburger, fries and chocolate milk it jumps to 720). Not to mention that it cost around $4.00, more than likely because of the inclusion of the $0.23 Happy Meal prize.

Well, if we’re going to go to Old McDonald’s on Daddy’s dime, we’re going to do things a little differently. We’ve got milk at home, two gallons of it because Natalie drinks two percent and Matthew is still cutting his teeth on whole milk, and we’ve got applies, dozens of little cups of them in a variety of forms. She never eats them from McDonald’s anyways, so why buy them? I know they both like the mixed fruit.

And there’s two of them, as Matthew’s started to eat regular food now. That means four bucks each, in addition to what I would normally get, we’re looking at blowing through the better part of a twenty…especially when I come from a time and upbringing when McDonald’s was cheap food, a quick alternate to cooking dinner, a special treat. Plus, this is a non-spending month… at least I’m trying not to spend any money. Tell that to the tax collector, those robbers.

So, I declared that no longer will I buy a Happy Meal for the kids. First of all, they’re not especially happy, merely a vehicle to promote whatever dumb kid’s movie is currently in the theaters; and secondly, they’re hardly a meal. Four little pieces of “chicken,” six tiny slices of apples and a pint of milk… oh, not to mention the toy. But the toy is usually related to the movie promotion and consists of one of two things: A) It does nothing, like a figurine or a cheap stuffed toy; or B) It is indescribable. There have been some toys that defy all logic and explanation. I don’t know what it is, where it came from, what it’s for and what it is supposed to do, not to mention, how to put it together. In about a week, I finally figure out what it is: trash. I don’t even want to recycle it in the fear that it may be turned back into another toy to disappoint another kid in some distant land. And don’t even get me started on the fact that Happy Meals don’t come in the boxes like they used to. Now, they’re just in thin paper bags… and that’s not very happy.

For them, I ordered a 10-piece Chicken McNuggets for $3.49. Net savings for me: I don’t know, but I felt better about it, and I wasn’t playing into the McDonald’s marketing ploy. Plus, the calories for a 10-piece are 420; half that for each (and they certainly didn’t eat five each) and it is a healthier choice all around.

Oh, but get this. You want to know what’s the largest ingredient in a Chicken McNugget? If you answered chicken, you may be surprised. Go here and take a look. Make sure you read down to the bottom to learn how to squeeze a nugget and refill your lighter.


Ryan or Kara said...

Ugh! And you fed that to them twice?!

Raquel said...

Now I know why I always get rumblies in my tummy after I eat the nuggets


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