Sorry I’m late today — I had to leave early, and here I sit, in the journalism library at Wayne State, waiting for my little lambs to come see me. Been here one hour. One student. They must all be at the pro-Libyan democracy demonstration, going on as we speak.)
Which means time to blog a bit.
Is it possible for me to love Mark Bittman more? Every week, a new pleasant surprise. Today’s: How to Make Oatmeal…Wrong. It’s about McDonald’s efforts at health-washing their breakfast menu:
The oatmeal and McDonald’s story broke late last year, when Mickey D’s, in its ongoing effort to tell us that it’s offering “a selection of balanced choices” (and to keep in step with arch-rival Starbucks) began to sell the cereal. Yet in typical McDonald’s fashion, the company is doing everything it can to turn oatmeal into yet another bad choice. (Not only that, they’ve made it more expensive than a double-cheeseburger: $2.38 per serving in New York.) “Cream” (which contains seven ingredients, two of them actual dairy) is automatically added; brown sugar is ostensibly optional, but it’s also added routinely unless a customer specifically requests otherwise. There are also diced apples, dried cranberries and raisins, the least processed of the ingredients (even the oatmeal contains seven ingredients, including “natural flavor”).
A more accurate description than “100% natural whole-grain oats,” “plump raisins,” “sweet cranberries” and “crisp fresh apples” would be “oats, sugar, sweetened dried fruit, cream and 11 weird ingredients you would never keep in your kitchen.”
It so happens I had oatmeal for breakfast today. I added two tablespoons of brown sugar and a handful of dried cherries. I guess that leaves out the 11 weird ingredients, but it made for a tasty breakfast. I feel a little bad for Mickey D’s, as they’ve gradually become my ubiquitous fast-food joint of choice. (My fast-food weaknesses are sorted into ubiquitous and special-occasion choices. Ubiquitous are the ones that are on every other corner. Special occasion is Steak & Shake.) I’ve come to far prefer it over Wendy’s, certainly. If I don’t have time to eat and am in sight of the golden arches, I get a crispy-chicken snack wrap, basically a single fried chicken finger wrapped in a tortilla with a little lettuce, cheese and ranch dressing, 340 calories that, along with a Diet Coke, suits me just fine. Sometimes I add a small order of fries, and call it lunch. What’s appalling to me is that it’s marketed as a snack in the first place. With a small fries, it’s knocking on the door of 600 calories, which is a perfectly fine lunch for anyone trying to stay under 2,000 for the day, which includes most people (or should). McDonald’s seems to be trying to make their menu a little less burger-centric, and I appreciate it.
Still, $2.38 for a bowl of oatmeal is highway robbery; I don’t think my beloved snack wrap is that much. One of the things Bittman touched on in his first column was a need to teach cooking skills to generations of Americans who’ve lost them along the way. Bittman is absolutely right that if you think you don’t have the time or skills to prepare oatmeal for yourself in the morning, you are seriously not understanding the nature of oatmeal, and McDonald’s will profit on your ignorance. Profit handsomely. Charging $2.38 for oatmeal and a little diced dried fruit is like charging $20 for a day’s worth of air.
What did you have for breakfast? Although now I’m thinking lunch.
Something found en route to looking up something else, and I’m sensitive to those of you who have topped out with $P news, because this is genuinely amusing and maybe interesting: Sarah Palin has created a sock puppet on Facebook to “like” herself. “Lou Sarah,” no photo available, confines his/her Facebook activity to commenting favorably upon, and otherwise boost, Sarah Palin’s Facebook presence. As a Wonkette commenter said, “Will the circle jerk remain unbroken?”
Newt Gingrich believes in a forgiving God. He’d better.
Finally: Rahm Emanuel, now hizzoner. Let the tired Chicago corruption jokes fly.