Cuisine of Concern

Ever buy food because it's cheap, then start having second thoughts a couple bites in?

This weekend I had an "Outrageous" combo from my local McDonald's. Hey, I was hungry, and broke, and Vince wanted a field trip. So we go through the drive-thru, order a hamburger, small fries and an apple pie, all for:

One Dollar.

On the one hand, the frugality of the meal enhances the flavor somewhat; there's nothing like the sweet taste of a bargain. Moments later, though, you're thinking, "Wait a minute. What the heck did I just eat? I'm not even sure you can get an equivalent amount of sand for a dollar."

Just imagine what possible substance McDonald's could be putting in those burgers, fries and pie confections to enable selling them for a measly hundred pennies apiece. At a profit. Creepin' a bit.

For truly suspiciously inexpensive eats, though, you gotta go to Cici's Pizza. I don't know if they have these where you are, but it's kind of a wacky deal: it's like a buffet, but with just pizza - along with salad nobody eats and weird dessert pizzas that don't start looking good until you've been in there stuffing your face for way too long. And full, unfettered access to this cavalcade of carbohydrates runs you:

Four Dollars.

Again, I say: What are these people serving me? All the pizza you can wolf down, from pedestrian pepperoni to exotic BBQ, plus garlic bread and brownies and anything else you spot under the heat lamps, and you get change back from a five.

The cheapskates and the power-eaters are in heaven there, I'll tell you. I went with my friend Jake, who is both, and it was an honor to behold. When the smoke cleared, Jake had something like six empty plates piled up on his tray, and an expression of pure satisfaction on his face.

I got this strange feeling as we walked out... it was the same feeling you get leaving a used-car transaction. Each party secretly thinks he's put one over on the other guy.

I felt like congratulating them both: Jake for downing more pizza in a sitting than I have in any given month, and Cici's for managing to formulate a substance, whatever it is, that they can practically give away and still run a successful business.

Nice work.


Anonymous said...

If you REALLY want to freak yourself out, start thinking about the deals at Taco Bell. Then talk to someone who has actually worked at a Taco Bell. Two words: Meat. Bag.

xo Wee (who just yesterday shared a Filet-O-Fish with the wolf and felt enormously guilty afterward.)

And P.S. Thank you for your comments, Colin. Sincerely. They make me glow like a firefly (in my fanously incandescent mannner!)

Thomas said...

hah! Ci-Ci's keeps Lieutenants with an extra layer of fat around Quantico, VA. I went there three times, and decided never to go back!

Altavistagoogle said...

It's all about incremental pricing. The building is there, the staff is there, the oven is on. They might as well cook something. Do the math, you could probably cook that stuff yourself for about the same price.

Most people in the world eat for far less than a dollar a meal.

Sometimes it is about up selling. Cheap meal but expensive drink. Other times it is bait and switch. You go because of the deal, then you forget why you are there and buy something different.

Other times it is simply predatory pricing. Once the competition goes under, they jack up the price.

Tip: cheapest time for fast food is January. Cheapest time for a health club membership is August.

Colin said...

Good to know, Sam. I did think about the developing nations as I typed that about $1 dollar meals, realizing their food costs "just pennies a day," according to Sally Struthers, but I always figured such inexpensive nourishment was only possible in a place without the U.S. restaurant industry's peripheral expenses: rent, management, marketing, lawsuits, etc.

To think that you can get lunch for a similar price in either Uganda or Youngstown is pretty amazing - even though I'm sure their food has more nutritional content than a McDonald's apple pie.