Friday, December 09, 2005


I’ve been somewhat skeptical of the recent fixation on “supersized” fast food meals. I mean, if you haven’t figured out that eating more of anything increases your caloric intake, you haven’t been paying attention… and if you choose to ignore that correlation, well, that’s your business. (I also don’t think you should be able to sue advertisers for seducing you into eating, but that’s another matter.) But I was taken aback a few Sundays ago, when Lisa and I went to a Friendly’s for breakfast for the first time in years.

Thing was, because of the Thanksgiving holiday, Lisa had radiation on a Sunday morning. So we figured we might as well treat ourselves to breakfast out, and decided to stop at the Friendly’s on the way home. It was a pleasant experience, frankly: the kids who were waiting tables and working the counter were nice, the restaurant was busy but not overwhelmed, and it was clear we were welcome to take as long as we liked. Plus any place that sets a pot of coffee on the table (good coffee, at that) just to start things off is my kind of breakfast place.

But what really startled me was the basic breakfast plates. All but one of them featured three eggs. Three eggs! Now, I’ll have a three-egg omelet for supper once in a while, but three sunny-side up eggs, plus sausage, toast, and home fries is a LOT of food, and all the basic breakfast plates had some variation on that three-eggs-plus. Lisa, being a better menu reader than I, finally found the two-egg version. The menu emphasized it as two eggs, two sausages (or bacon or ham), two pancakes or two slices of french toast, plus home fries for fifty cents more, but if you looked closely you found that you could get two eggs, two sausages, two slices of plain toast, and home fries, and still get the combo price. That was more what I had in mind, but, because I didn’t read as carefully as Lisa did, I got the three-egg version. With four sausage links. I love sausage.

Now, to be fair, I doubt those were jumbo eggs, or even large - my guess would be medium at best. Which means that (a) the restaurant probably saved some significant money and (b) three eggs wasn’t as enormous as it seemed. But it was still a lot of food, fine for a Sunday brunch, but not something I’d want to do every day.

As I said, I’m not all that excited about supersizing. But it does strike me as strange that, given the national fixation on obesity, a popular restaurant chain can increase the number of eggs it offers in a standard combo plate — and can do very well for itself by doing so. Clearly, people want and enjoy the larger plate (and I’ll agree it was darn tasty) and either they’re not the people who are obsessing about their weight or they’re the people that are being obsessed about. Because there seems to be a correlation between class and weight: “those people” don’t eat right, don’t cook right, are raising our insurance rates by actually needing health care, which of course they wouldn’t need if they were like us and lived right.

Part of me says I’m making much too much of this. The folks who go to Friendly’s are mostly like Lisa and me: this is an occasional treat, and three eggs once every few years, or even every few months, probably isn’t going to hurt anyone. These breakfasts are probably healthier than a lot of fast(er) food outlets’ offerings, anyway, and they taste good and the restaurant employs a whole bunch of unusually pleasant people. But another part of me worries that this is a kind of set up: you’re encouraged to save money by buying more food at a better price, but you’re stigmatized if you do it too often and get fat. And the thing that worries me most of all is that the people who are doing the judging — the people writing the ads and casting the popular TV shows and movies — wouldn’t be caught dead in a place like that, and that attitude factors into their judgement. Sure, they’ll sell you three eggs, and write the menu that makes that seem like the only choice, but they’ll make fun of you for it, forever.