The Best Things I Shouldn’t Eat

In case you haven’t heard the latest frenzy, KFC has just added the “Double Down” to its menu. My understanding of it is that they took a bacon and cheese sandwich and replaced the bread with fried chicken. For the health-conscious, KFC has also added an option for grilled chicken instead. There are a couple reasons why this particular item is so interesting to me.

First, the nutritional facts, as usual, are completely surprising to me. According to their website, it has 540 calories, 32 grams of fat, and 1380 mg of sodium. For comparison, the Big Mac has 590 calories, 34 grams of fat, and 1070 mg of sodium. Granted, KFC is likely only revealing the most favorable nutritional facts, and the measurements are likely contestable as well, but who would’ve thought you’d come away so clean on something so utterly devoid of healthy appearances?

Second, this seems to continue America’s fascination with an improved sandwich, mostly by playing around with the sandwiching material. Tracy Jordan similarly came up with the idea of replacing bread with meat.

Finally, I really want to try it. Sure, it sounds pretty disgusting. Sure, it’s probably a gimmick. Sure, my body would probably appreciate getting punched in the gut instead. It’s a lot like rubbernecking, I think.

I’d like to say that I’m generally better than this, but in truth, my attempts to develop a refined palate are mostly held back by what I’ll call the “Paula Deen School of Thought” in that the best thing for me to eat is what tastes good. In light of this realization, I’ve put together a list of what I consider a few major players in this field, roughly categorized as well.

Gotta Go Get It Now

I admittedly don’t eat out very much. Thanks to the hard work of my mom, I grew up mostly on tasty home-cooked meals. Even so, fast food restaurants and shops have some great offerings that you have to hate to love, including:

KFC’s Mashed Potato Bowl – this one I credit to my good friend Austin. Take it one step further and get macaroni and cheese on the side, and mix that in too. You can’t beat the convenience of everything in one bowl

Krispy Kreme Original Glazed Donuts – you will never, ever find that taste just like these ones. Crunchy on the outside, fluffy on the inside, toxic and addictive at the same time. They come mainly in dozens, and frankly, a dozen of them sounds like way too much. Even 6 sounds like a lot. But after you eat 5, the 6th one is still just as good.

But There’s A Better Alternative!

Most of the best food is made out of the best ingredients. Frankly, that’s the definition of what a good ingredient is. The items in this list, however, are clearly not the best of their category, and maybe that’s why they’re so good.

Kraft Mac & Cheese – when I think of macaroni & cheese, this is what I think of. It’s just good. I can’t imagine how real cheese could taste better than the cheese powder mixed in with margarine and milk. This particular one has actually been highly controversial among my friends, but the tipping point for me is that this was an important part in my childhood. Growing up, I ate sandwiches for lunch at school probably 90% of the time. That means that I have an obsession with sandwiches, but even that only goes so far. It was the rare day when my mom would change things up, and my sisters and I might get mac & cheese for lunch instead. I guess the glory days live on.

Chef Boyardee Ravioli – you know when you go to an Italian restaurant, you’re always disappointed when you get just 5 ravioli. And in the end, they usually don’t taste that special anyways. There’s something magical about the pasta and tomato sauce substitute they use in canned ravioli.

Twinkies – I don’t think there’s anything else that Hostess could possibly do to make twinkies less of a food. They just replaced every real ingredient with something else that happens to have the essence of tastiness. My occasional desire for twinkies is actually more from its cultural status than actually liking it, but I think that’s okay, too.

Chips Ahoy Candy Blasts – homemade cookies are great. There are few domestic joys as great as being offered a freshly-baked cookie, and appreciation knows no bounds when you take the cookie off the plate. Even so, Chips Ahoy has managed to capture an important sector of cookie desire, mainly being the convenient and guiltless variety.

Best of the Brandless

So far, all of the tasty, awful foods mentioned have been specific creations, but here are a few generics

Onion Rings – I have tried on twice to make onion rings, and I don’t think I quite have the art down. What it has shown me, though, is that disgustingly-good is an emergent property. Oil? Pretty gross. Onions? Okay, but not notable. Pancake batter? Maybe with syrup. Frying onions coated in pancake batter? Pure magic.

Soft Serve Ice Cream – Ice cream is an obsession in my family, and the dining halls on-campus dangerously all have soft-serve machines. I think I’ve built up some willpower, but some days, I just know it’s going to be a soft-serve day.

Tater Tots – Arguably a Ore-Ida creation, but the Safeway freezer aisle should be enough proof that it’s a pretty easy market to get into. Tater tots are interesting to me, because I actually don’t particularly like potato chips, home fries, or french fries. When I think about what tater tots taste like, that’s a hard question, too. I think it’s just the perfect balance of the crunchy outside and soft inside that gets me.

Killer Combos

Some things are best eaten in pairs.

Doritos + Mountain Dew – I stereotype this combination as the classic computer geek food. Whether it’s playing video games in a basement, coding with the green text on black background, or surfing the web late at night, it works.

Wendy’s Chocolate Frosty + French Fries – I don’t know who I first heard this from, but when I did, I knew I had to try it. I’m certain I’ve had it no more than 2 times in my life, but I would rate them as solid culinary experiences. Clearly, the next step should be to combine the chocolate frosty with tater tots.

Looking over that list, most of those sound pretty gross right now. That’s probably for the best.

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