Do What Makes Money

“Where’s the beef?” a Wendy’s commercial famously asked for the first time in 1984. And today, my beef is with their shameless promotion of deadly foods in the guise of whimsy and wisdom.  Let me just say first that I fall well outside their marketing demographic. If they hoped to draw me into the Wendy’s fold with their creepy ads or smarmy motto, they failed.

I entered an interstate Wendy’s last week only because it was the best of a bad lot of choices at any of the I-40 exits we would pass.  To place our order required that we zig and zag our way along the roped-off biggie-sized cattle chute along with America’s corpulent hungry . By the time we reached the register, the message the Wendy’s ad psychologists so wanted their signage to purvey to me had indeed saturated my brain like a large order of fries on a paper napkin. It left me disgusted, and no longer hungry.

I left angry.  And unlike the namesake for the Baconator, I will not be back.

The sandwich is more than a sandwich, as the ad guys give voice to this 830 calories and 51 fat grams of ill health. It is a sentient thing, and confronting it is a test of courage, a challenge, an adventure, it taunts and woos us.

The Baconator: Careful, it Can Smell Fear”; “Order it before it orders you”; “You said you liked bacon. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.”; “Celebrity shouldn’t be worshiped, unless that celebrity is bacon.”

I wanted to stand up on the counter and have an adult tantrum. This is like a Viagra ad for eaters. And that was just looking at the (not much) larger than life picture of this thing, before I read the nutritional information–no great surprise there. This beast burger really should elicit fear, dread and avoidance. They tried to warn us. Yeah, right.

The final straw was their motto I saw over the portal as we rushed away: “Do what tastes right.”

Now where have I heard that sentiment before? Oh yes, it’s a seventies moral-anarchy free-love jingle: if it feels good, do it. No inhibitions, no guilt, just do it. And Wendy’s motto does for food about the same thing as the latter does for human relationships.  What’s love got to do with it, got to do with it, Tina Turner sang.

What’s health got to do with it? Kiddies, make your choices by what turns on your hypothalamic pleasure centers. Adults, do whatever turns off your neuropeptide-Y stress-induced hormones. Go ahead. Dare ya. Put a few more pounds around that growing apple in your middle that will make you less depressed for the moment, but will eventually kill you.

I’m sorry. I am having an Andy Rooney moment. Ann and I partake of the larger American culture so infrequently (no television, Floyd Press only, and not many frequent flier miles) that these infrequent confrontations with “civilization” are a shock and a disappointment.

Can’t we do better as a society? Don’t we owe it to each other to take better care of our thinking, our diets and our income than to toss it at whatever tastes right? Wendy’s, you should be ashamed.

And as long as allow our children and ourselves to be sucked in by this kind of unexamined message, maybe we deserve to be baconated.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. what’s sad is they even aim this at kids now, with “Big Kids” meals. so that your child argues that he’s a big kid, so he needs the larger portions which include double cheeseburgers and larger orders of fries. yuck!

    i try to avoid fast food, but sometimes it’s an evil necessity. at least most now have the options of ordering juice or milk instead of soda and applesauce or apple slices instead of fries.

    burger king recently started offering triple and quadruple cheeseburgers with the same kind of ad campaign and i just remember thinking “what the H***?” i call it a heart-attack in a wrapper.

  2. Do what makes money, no matter how harmful it may be to anyone else! Yeap, that’s the prodoment attitude in this country now. But then that’s the attitude from the very top down. I’ve learned over the years, the attitude at the top, always flows down.

    Beginning with Bush/Cheney and the whole administration. Their focus is or making billions and billions more for their corp friends and Texas ranchers, and the hell with the middle class of this country, or what’s in the best interest of this country.

    Now, not just sub prime mortgages, but even prime mortgages are starting to hit the skids. Prices of everything has increased, making the people at the top wealthier and more greedy every day. While we the middle class are being squeeded, with higher prices on everything from gas, to home energy, to groceries, medicine and insurance.

    And the Demacrats have been sucked in to believing Bush’s lies, because they see everything thru the eyes of getting more illegal immigrant votes for them selves. I hear the latest is that a town in Conn is giving illegal immigrants ID cards that can be used to get bank accounts and all other services available to legal American citizens. I also hear this is a test pilot, as the plans are for it to spread across the country. We stopped them in congress, now they’re doing what we the people don’t want, thru the back door. Just another back stabbing move by the Bush asministration to get his way no matter what.

    I want to be clear. I have no problem with legal immigrants. My grand parents were from Ireland and Germany. LEGAL immigration is a good thing. But the drug smugglers and probably terrorist who are flooding our border every day, I am totoally against. Our number one priority should be to secure our country, FIRST! Then work on plans to deal with the illegals that are already here, many of which may very well be terriorist cells. But Bush and Cheney don’t want to stop the flow because it’s cheap below minimum wage labor for the Texas ranchers, and cheap labor for the bigh boys like Walmart and others. Hillary Clinton went to an Indian gathering and promoted more work visas for the higher paying tech jobs for Indian people.

    We’ve got cheap labor coming in the back door, and higher paying job labor coming in thru the front door. It seems to me if we don’t have enough trained people here to do the tech jobs, Clinton should be promoting better education for our people instead of promoting more work visas. And she should be trying to promote a living wage pay from those Texas Ranchers, so Americans could do the jobs and make a living at it. But no, she’s promoting more work visas for Indian people and trying to pass a immigration bill that would make the illegals, legal, so they can do the below minimum wage work.

    We the people of this country have been forgotten. Neither party has our best interest at heart. They’re all consumed with greed and wealth and getting more votes.

    So I’m doing all I can to fight for my rights. First I encourage everyone to pay attention to what Congress is up to and to call them, and send emails and faxes, about everything you disagree with. When those calls and emails and faxes pile up they pay attention. They count the numbers and the numbers mean votes to them. That’s our only power. The corporate world has powerful lobbist, but we have the power of numbers, we just have to put it to use, as we did on the comprehensive immigration bill.

    And please check out a new movement called Unity08 at, It’s a new movement to promote a party for the middle of the road voters. Those who sign up will have some say in forming the platform, and by-laws and will get to vote on line for the people they would like to see run for president and vice president. They most of all right now need new members. They have quite a bit of money behind them already, but of course will need more. You don’t have to give up your current party, and can still vote in your primary.

    If you’re at all dissatisified with what’s happening with the 2 party system, I encourage you please check out Unity08.

  3. Yup, there are definitely issues with immigration. But that subject as a comment here is rather distantly tangential to this post that deals mostly with dietary and health matters. I’m hoping the conversations (if any comes from such a post) will serve to dig the same hole a little deeper than to start digging other holes.

    Thanks for the unity08 link; maybe that is the subject of a future post, though I stay mostly away from politics on FFF as a rule.

  4. I have a pot of farmer-neighbor green beans stewing on the back burner of my gas stove as I write this. He also gave us lovely yellow squash, corn on the cob, lovely pickling cukes, huge tomatoes.

    When my kids were small, we always had a kitchen garden…40 years ago, folks. Now that they are grown & have their own children, their gardens grow as much of their food as possible. We always loved to have an entire meal out of the garden. Anyone who hasn’t dug tiny new potatoes from the ground doesn’t know the meaning of true discovery.

    Fast food? I know it’s out there & I’ve seen the commercials. Maybe once or twice a year I’ve been forced to partake (usually while driving as you mentioned, Fred.)

    But salting & eating a tomato warm from the sun, sitting on the back porch, dripping juice down the front of your shirt…ah, that’s heaven!

  5. You know, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone patronize fast food outlets while a gun was being held to their head.

  6. Actually I do see the connection.

    But no problem, if I saw a way to remove the entire post I would, but since I don’t see any way, please do so.

  7. The last thing this overpopulated world needs is for the average human to live longer. I confess that about once weekly I have a fast food meal. I’ve even had a couple of those baconators. They’re really pretty damn good 😉 But I’m 34, 6’1″, I weigh 179 pounds, I am very healthy, and I’m not terribly interested in living until I’m 100.

    As far as the opinion spectrum goes, I’m in between MaxMD and Fred. I’d like to see significant taxes levied on food that doesn’t meet certain nutrition requirements. Then folks who want to continue to eat a primarily unhealthy diet can finance their own future health care expenses. If the problem is general availability of food that is simply more rich in nutrients or calories than humans have adapted to require, particularly with the limited physical activity that modern living requires, then taxes could help mitigate this problem.


  8. mmmm … bacon. Your disgust with Wendy’s is not even close to mine regarding liberal Democrats in this country. The 2008 candidates have been throwing out buzzwords with about as much efficacy and relevance as Miss America positing “world peace” as priority number one. Like the fastfood sandwich, it’s the same old thing in a new package.

    But what if there were no Baconator? Would we as a society still flourish? Of course, but it’s not about that, rather it’s about choices. And this country gives us lots of them.

  9. I agree wholeheartedly. The new ads on TV for the baconator are terrible in several ways. I can’t help but think if Dave Thomas were still alive, this would not be happening.

  10. Fun thread here…politics and food.

    Wanda, you shouldn’t lump Texas Ranchers with the Corporate Friends of this administration. The only Texas Ranchers that fit are the Corporate Friends of Bush and Chaney. Real Texas Ranchers are as threatened this days as real Family Farmers. Neither is finding an easy time of trying to stay afloat in these days of Industrial Agriculture.
    And it’s Industrial Agriculture with it’s corporate welfare know as the Farm Bill that makes the fast food industry even possible. Without the farm subsidies to the big corn and soy growers you wouldn’t have low cost feed for the cattle and the pigs being raised in the cornbelt of the country, not Texas ranchland. Without the high fructose corn syrup you wouldn’t have those 42oz. colas making all the profit that drives the fast food industry to keep putting up new stores wherever there is a street corner that’s bare.
    I tend to agree more with Sean. Except, if you remove the government subsidies, most fast food would immediately cost more. If we had a real “living” minimum wage, prices would also rise. Then if you want a tax based on nutritional value…Great, you wouldn’t be taking the tax and giving it back to the very ones who are pushing the empty calories in the first place.
    The trouble is we now have a whole generation raised on the “notion” that fast food is good. And that has equated in their minds to good for you. There will need to be a lot of re-education done at some point in the near future…
    And Marion…you are making me hungry and I just finished breakfast…