Thursday, September 11, 2008

Quad Stack Brouhahahahahahahahaha

There has been a right royal kerfuffle in Australia about the release of the new Hungry Jack's quad stack burger. For our overseas friends, Hungry Jack's is burger chain franchisee of the US Burger King brand, the former of which has been operating in Australia since 1971. The legal  stoush between the two companies actually makes for interesting reading. But onto more important matters at hand ...

The quad stack consists of two buns with four beef patties, four slices of cheese, two rashers of bacon, and barbecue sauce. There are no salad vegetables like onions, tomato, lettuce or gherkin in sight (the other missing ingredient for us Aussies is the ever faithful slices of beetroot, which distinguish our burgers from the rest of the world's). I couldn't find any nutritional information on the quad stack on the 'Menu and Nutritional Facts' page of the Hungry Jack's website, but a Nine.msm article tells us that,
"The burger has more than 70gm of fat and over 4520Kj (1000 calories) – half the daily recommended calorie intake for a woman and nearly one-third for a man".
The release of this burger has been controversial in the media and in the health industry due to the current obesity epidemic and the fact that Australia has now been found to be the worlds most fattest nation (post Olympics this has been a gold winning performance that no individual or country should aspire to). I for one am not the thinnest person in the world, but I do follow a relatively clean diet and I do go to the gym regularly (I'm an excellent swimmer and can swim 2km in a session and can walk 20km quite easily – my record is 33.3km in a day. I am also flexible in the stretching department, competent at weights, and have even conquered the dreaded lunges). I don't smoke, have never taken drugs, I don't drink alcohol, tea, coffee or fizzy drinks but I do give myself treats because I love food and cooking and I love taste-testing new products. I don't as a rule frequent fast food restaurants – a Pizza Hut or KFC meal will have me gaining 2kg overnight because of all the salts, sugars and nitrates (I get so thirsty I drink about 2 litres of water straight after and it will take my body 48-72 hours to repel the effects).

Quite frankly I think the marketing people from Hungry Jacks are geniuses. The negative publicity has put Hungry Jack's into prime time news and started a stampede of customers (mostly by men) curious to know what all the fuss is about. Of course, all this hype got me wondering whether the burger was any good, and I shared these thoughts with a friend and comic book artist Matt Elder who attends the monthly comics mentor/mentee meetings in the city with Jozef and me. Matt has been staying here for the last week in solitude and on retreat and yesterday he surprised me with a quad stack. So here are my impressions ...

The first issue at the forefront is actually truth in advertising. Like many food advertising campaigns there can be a great divide between what the food stylists present for the camera and what clever photographers can capture in the final image that makes its way to us in print and on television. The photos of this mighty burger have been greatly exaggerated. The photo above shows what looks to be a monster burger – it appears to even overshadow in size the male hand that grasps it. The reality was that the burger I was given was about the circumference of the palm of one of my hands. So that was the first surprise for me.

The second thing I did was study the burger from all angles. It was neatly stacked. The cheese was a lurid processed orange colour but the meat patties were perfectly equal in size. There was just a touch of bacon overhang. When I picked it up it did not squash or slide or squirt. It did not smell any different to other burgers.

My next step was to cut it in half as per my usual practice. I have a system for my taste-testing practices. If I do want to try a limited edition burger such as this or indeed another new product not even in the fast food classification, I usually buy one then bring it to the farm and cut it into three to share with my parents so we can experience it together and then compare notes and to rate it out of five. In this case, I cut it in two and gave the other half to Matt (who had already confessed to trying one the day before). Then I took a bite of it in its natural state. It was okay, but nothing special.

The next step was to add the accoutrements I thought it needed taste- and nutritionally-wise to elevate it to its next stage of its culinary evolution – I added tomato and some cos lettuce. Mmm. much better. I finished it off slowly – chewing each bite before swallowing it.

The upshot of it was that I did not suffer any ill-effects post-consumption unless I was not consciously aware of them. My digestive processes didn't change; I didn't need to overcompensate with additional water beyond my standard eight glasses a day; and there was no change in my weight the next morning. Now ... this is not an endorsement for the burger. Nor indeed is it an indictment on the burger. This is merely a case of self-observation, and perhaps a strengthening of my understanding of the issue of moderation and balance. Ultimately, you can't legislate or bully people into doing things or not doing them because the rebellious and curious child part within ourselves will go the opposite way. You can only educate people and let them choose their own behaviour which is answerable to the law of cause and effect. I go through life actively wanting to create win/win situations for myself and others. In this case, the win was that I actually got to try something I was curious about but I did it in a way that on the face of it didn't negatively compromise my long term health. I was actually quite proud of the way I handled this situation. Now I just need to apply the same lesson to chocolate  ...

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