June 21, 2005

McDonald's Fruit and Walnut Salad

My duties as Carlisle High School's Cafeteria Critic were always somewhat straightforward. The specific duty of sampling a variety of cafeteria cuisine was placed roughly upon my slender shoulders. As I pondered the transition from a general cafeteria critic to a food critic of much broader pastures, I was puzzled by the staggering array of foods which I could review. Tacos, cheeseburgers, pizzas, and French fries from an American plethora of food service companies are mine for reviewing. I must admit that I feel that I have lost some proverbial bondage in reviewing food. I am no longer limited to the government-standardized food of a high school cafeteria. This fact is both exciting to my mind and dangerous to my cholesterol, but I was struck by an epiphany when pondering where to begin my reviews. McDonald's, the most widely known fast-food chain in the world, was literally screaming to my discriminating tongue. Though the golden arches may have served "Over 1 Billion Burgers", they would be grilling an important piece of beef quite soon. Once I decided to sample Mickey D's offerings, I made a decision to try out their classic hamburger from the popular "Dollar Menu". However, as I my feet stepped onto the soda-coated floor of my Local McDonald's, a few pieces of information greeted me. First and foremost, I was troubled by the dangerous reports of mad cow disease in the United States. Pesky prions may have turned up in Washington State, and although a transcontinental trek is quite a distance for such small pathogens, I felt it prudent to play it safe and avoid beef. After all, if this single cow can shatter McDonald's stock price, how can I be so foolish as to risk my sanity over a salubrious burger? Even more importantly, I noted the addition of the new "Fruit and Walnut Salad" to the offerings of Ronald McDonald. Though this selection is mostly marketed to women, my never-ending curiosity overcame any gender-bias I may have felt and led me to fork over $2.99 for the salad. I felt sure that nutritionalists everywhere would be proud of my healthy choice. As I sat down with my salad in its streamlined black bowl, I was somewhat disappointed by the differentiation in fruit types. Generally, when one mentions a fruit salad, I picture a variety of apples, bananas, pears, oranges, pineapples, and melon with an occasional strawberry or cherry thrown in for added flavor and color. Ronald McDonald, it seems, as given in to his friend Grimace's dower ideals when constructing the new salad. I was greeted by slices of apple with red skin, slices of apple with green skin, purple seedless grapes, a bag of walnuts, and low-fat yogurt. While I realize that marketing is all about presentation, I believe that a lawsuit against Mickey D's for false advertising is in order. Make no mistake, this is not a "fruit salad" It is a few sliced apples with grapes, yogurt, and a prepackaged bag of walnuts. I was, however, pleasantly surprised by the quality of the apples. I found them to be crisp, sweet, and juicy. In all likelihood, this is thanks to new advances made by McDonald's in fruit prosthesis, but I cannot complain based on my conjecture. I will, however, note that the grapes, while seedless, were somewhat soggy. In my opinion, there is no fruit worse than a mushy grape, and the Fruit and Walnut Salad falls victim to this inadequacy. The bag of walnuts contained a somewhat stingy portion, although flavor was quite good. The walnuts seemed to be doused in sugar, a move that certainly does not help my caloric intake, although it greatly increased my enjoyment. I didn't sprinkle them on my salad in the way that McDonald's posters show, however. I do not quite understand how one is to pick up a walnut with a fork. The yogurt also went quite well with the salad. I must admit that I greatly enjoyed dipping my fruit into the sweet yogurt. It both added flavor to the salad and helped to break the monotony of eating apple after apple in a "fruit salad". As a whole, I must say that the meal was quite filling for fruit. While I expected the fruit salad to leave me hungry for a burger "peared" with some fries, I was "grapely" surprised by the level of complacency of my stomach. The amount of fullness I experienced after eating the apples was particularly perplexing. I have my own theories as to the cause of this phenomenon, most of which center around genetic engineering and the substitution of plastics for cellulose, but I will refrain from delving into idle speculation.

Whenever one samples a McDonald's item, they are not simply sampling food. Any individual that orders from Ronald's menu is partaking in both a food item and an advertising campaign. Your friends at the Golden Arches have certainly outdone themselves in constructing a fascinating ad campaign for the fruit and walnut salad. I was tempted to "put a smile on" as I read the promotional poster that ordered me to "Get a fruit buzz". If I was less than certain of McDonald's infinite corporate and sociological wisdom, I would question the ramifications of such a campaign on adults and children. After some deep inspection, I have concluded that McDonald's is not cross promoting illegal and irresponsible use of drugs with this slogan, however. Rather, they are demonstrating to children that the war on drugs is real, so the only safe buzz comes from fruit. However, I must say that I did not feel the least bit intoxicated after eating my apples, grapes, walnuts, and yogurt.

In addition to the "fruit buzz" marketing blitz, McDonald's has decided to include a unique green fork with every fruit and walnut salad. This lime piece of mass-produced plastic is sure to bring flavorful joy to even the fruitiest Scrooge. I know that my face lit up like Gwyneth Paltrow's daughter on Christmas morning when I unwrapped my fork. It truly made my day.

After examining the entire fruit and walnut salad, I must award it a lackluster two sporks out of a possible five. The salad's lack of fruit variety seriously impaired my enjoyment. The steep $2.99 price also hampered my love for the selection. Additionally, I was somewhat put off by the curious marketing techniques that included a phantom fruit buzz and green fork. However, judging from the pinks and greens employed in the promotional poster, Mickey D's seems to be targeting women with the salad. Perhaps my limited male mind cannot fathom the depths of a fruit buzz and green fork.

For those of you that prefer alternate forms of measurement, I have decided to rank the fruit and walnut salad in green forks. It receives a disappointing 30 out of a possible 75 green forks. (This translates into roughly two sporks out of five) I must give some merit to Ronald McDonald for expanding his offerings. Unfortunately, when there is more variety in the vegetables on my burger than there is in the fruit in my fruit salad, McDonald’s workers will not be able to “love to see me smile.”

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