Take your kids to Maccas with pride
Fine dining fans will be thrilled to hear that the world’s most famous restaurant – McDonalds – has just made a bold pitch for the haute cuisine end of the market with the release of two new burgers made with prime export-quality Australian Angus beef.
“Served on a sourdough bun and with gourmet trimmings for $6.45 and $6.75 respectively, the burgers represent a premium option for cost-conscious diners” a Maccas spokesman said this week.
Many people will think this latest marketing ploy is a disgrace. And I agree with them.
Not because I’m worried that the Golden Arches is trying to lure unsuspecting healthy folk into its store with the promise of nutritious food.
But because it goes against the wholly defensible core service which McDonalds provides – to serve really tasty junk food to people like me who enjoy eating it, and have no qualms about feeding it to their kids.
The introduction of Angus beef burgers at Maccas is an example of the vaguely sinister psychological techniques practised by marketing executives the world over. The availability of a healthy option isn’t really about driving sales of the new products. It’s about challenging the perception of the other products that Maccas sells tonne after tonne of stuff that is extremely high both in delicious fat and tasty sugar.
But there’s a sense of subliminal virtue in sidling up to the counter next to an Alessi-style stainless steel bowl of granny smith apples – which might as well be made out of plastic for the number of times you seen anyone actually buy one – and ordering yourself the new and excellent double quarter pounder, which is now available with bacon.
And the knowledge that you could hypothetically order the McDeli Wrap and an apple juice with a granny smith to munch on afterwards makes it seem somehow more acceptable to step foot in the store, especially if you have the kids with you.
Ditto the availability of apple slices as the alternative to french fries in the Happy Meals – which as any parent knows, are a great way to start a massive fight in the back of the station wagon, when you casually suggest to the kids that the apple might be a better choice than the chips.
Of course it’s not a better choice.
No sane adult would order the apple slices, so why should poor innocent children be forced to eat apple?
Apples or Angus burgers or lattes or perhaps even the introduction of a new Mctruffled omelette – these things are an affront to the very reason millions and millions of Australians frequent McDonalds on such a regular basis.
I’m not talking about the lazy, thunder-thighed parents who negligently take their kids there every other day – but the rest of us who think there’s nothing wrong with going there every so often, even once a week, to grab a box of nuggets, a junior burger, have a quick discussion about which toy they want with it, crumble to their demands for chips instead of apple, and then head off to the park with the footy or the kite and run around for the rest of the day.
This kind of behaviour – perfectly legitimate mainstream behaviour – is in the crosshairs of the health professionals, who are being urged on in their anti-fat crusade by sections of the press.
British columnist Amanda Platell caused a massive stir with her Daily Mail piece this month saying that parents who fed their kids Maccas were effectively committing an act of child abuse.
It’s rubbish – her argument, that is, not the food.
The problem isn’t feeding kids junk food – it’s feeding kids junk food all the time, in an environment where they are allowed to live like pint-sized couch potatoes, where the closest they get to any form of physical activity is playing on the Wii, where the idea of exploring means surfing the net on Club Penguin or Facebook, rather than rummaging around in the garden with the Bug Catcher.
You can mount a strong argument that, if your kids are almost manically active, as they should be, it’s a great thing to give them a diet which is filled with high-energy foods that are crammed with sugars, and heavy on the fats, so that you can keep them on the go.
Perhaps the problem isn’t the food that they eat but a combination of molly-coddling and paranoia which prevents kids from engaging in cool outdoor activities.
There is a terrific book by American journalist and outdoors nut Richard Louv entitled Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature Deficit Disorder. Louv chronicles how a combination of laziness, baseless fears about crime, urban density and the lack of green space, has conspired to create a world where kids are almost barred from ever leaving the house.
It’s amazing how quickly it’s happened – literally, in the space of one generation.
As a kid we would happily gorge ourselves on all sorts of garbage, half a box of barbecue shapes after school, a dripping tin in the fridge for fry-ups, all that stuff. None of it mattered because we basically lived on our bikes and would ride through a national park on our own for hours after school, making jump ramps over the creek, and come home so exhausted we would fall into bed. And when we weren’t doing this we’d be out on the street playing cricket for three hours, or over the fence at the park kicking the footy until it got dark.
The attacks on junk food which are coming from the health lobby don’t go to the core of the problem, which is keeping kids active and away from the damned computer. All they do is impinge on the rights of the overwhelming majority of parents who, if pressed, would sheepishly admit to giving their kids Maccas or Hungrys, which is not even remotely a problem if it’s part of an active lifestyle and a generally healthy diet.
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