Monday, July 25, 2011

The McNugget Dream Is Over

You may recall that a few weeks ago I was jonesing for Chicken McNuggets. And a McNugget jones is not a pretty thing.
Not McNugget Jones, fool, a McNugget jones.
She's gorgeous.
On Saturday, Precocious Daughter and I finally made our pilgrimage to McDonald's. We were running errands, and she had a birthday party to get to, and we had to shoehorn lunch in there somewhere. The stars aligned, and there we were: Willing supplicants on the sacrificial altar of fast-food worship. It was time to get our nugget on.

Fortunately, the line moved pretty fast.
We each got a Mighty Kids Meal. Hey, I like Apple Dippers, OK? Besides, they had Star Wars toys! I wasn't going to pass that up. Actually, the Star Wars toys were the "boy" toy option; the "girl" toy du jour was Strawberry Shortcake. And while it would have been way fun to pummel a toy Blueberry Muffin with a toy lightsaber, PDaughter and I both decided to get the non-girly - and much cooler - choice. 

I'd like to reiterate: This would not have been wrong.
So our entire order consisted of: Two Mighty Kids McNugget meals with Apple Dippers, one milk, one Diet Coke, and Spicy Buffalo dunking sauce. Simple. And I was really looking forward to that Spicy Buffalo sauce. This is what is called foreshadowing.

We took our cardboard boxes of happiness to a booth and followed standard Happy Meal etiquette of ignoring our food in favor of the toys. PDaughter got a blue lightsaber. Mine was purple. Joy! Well, almost. My purple lightsaber was kind of a ripoff. The blue one, you see, was hard and straight and lit up. The purple one just collapsed and didn't do anything else. And I couldn't even explain to PDaughter the aptness of this perfect metaphor in plastic form. Because she's eleven. We're years away from having that conversation.

Would you like me to explain it to you instead?
So while the blue lightsaber glowed at the touch of a button, when you turned it off you just had this tube of plastic sticking out of the handle and ruining the illusion, which has been the dilemma of toy lightsaber designers since 1977. Maybe now that we've killed the manned space program, our out-of-work aerospace engineers can devote themselves to the problem. Meanwhile, the purple lightsaber retreated into the handle with a flick of the wrist and then with another flick came out ready to fight, just like in the movies. Except that instead of coming out as an awesome fiery shaft of death-dealing laser light, it was just an inert hunk of plastic that tended to collapse every time I tried to whack PDaughter with it. So an imperfect toy on both fronts, but that didn't keep us from giggling and making lightsaber noises through the entire meal. I'm sure the lovely Asian family hunched together over a laptop at the next table thought we were charming.

Eventually we got around to unpacking our food. Those Apple Dippers were going to be great. Except that they were fries instead of Apple Dippers. Now, McDonald's fries are a paper pouch of yummy. But we really wanted crisp apple slices with a sweet caramel dipping sauce. And I wanted our arteries to stay open for the duration of the day. So I took the Happy Meals up to the counter, where the fries were swiftly exchanged. Except for a few straggler fries that stayed in the bottom of my box. Score!

The ones that fight for survival always taste the best.
 Now we had our toys, our Apple Dippers, a handful of bonus fries, and our tasty golden nuggets of chicken-like substance. And no Buffalo sauce. No dipping sauce at all. Sigh. PDaughter was perfectly happy; she eats her McNuggets with ketchup. Disgusting. I mean, I'll put ketchup on almost anything, but I draw the line at Chicken McNuggets. Nuggets and dipping sauce are a sacred combination. Together, they are more than the sum of their many, many ingredients. If you're going to have Chicken McNuggets with ketchup, you may as well take Communion with grape juice. (Oh, I went there. Jesus was not sipping Welch's Concord Grape Cocktail at the Last Supper. Get over it.)

Oh, snap! Judas, did you put grape juice in here?
And where's my damn honey mustard?
So I got up again to request my Spicy Buffalo sauce. Why don't they just put those sauce tubs out for the taking, the way they do with the ketchup packets? Are they afraid people will just make off with dozens of them for home use? Well, yeah, I totally would. I would stuff enough of those little tubs in my purse to marinate an ostrich. McDonald's may commit horrendous crimes against nutrition and taste, but they sure can do a nice tub of dipping sauce.

Anyway, this time there was no one at the counter, and three people ahead of me in line. Maybe all the employees were in the back, pistol-whipping the one who had messed up our Happy Meals. If so, this little missing-sauce trick was not going to help her out. Besides, my McNuggets were getting cold, and a cold McNugget is a...well, it's basically a less appetizing version of a warm one. And no one goes around telling people, "Why, that looks as appetizing as a warm McNugget," if you get my drift. Reluctantly, I decided to forego the dipping sauce.

Turns out ketchup is not bad on Chicken McNuggets. Not really surprising. I'm thinking you could take an old pair of shoes, and put ketchup on one, and Spicy Buffalo sauce on the other, and you would still wonder what possessed you to take a bite out of a disgusting old shoe. Same principle.

But I did enjoy my McNuggets. Because - life lesson alert! - it wasn't actually about the processed chicken lumps after all. It was about having a toy lightsaber fight in the middle of a crowded fast food restaurant with my favorite kid. It was about putting our heads together and gasping over how many grams of fat McDonald's can stuff into a double cheeseburger...and wondering why they would print that information on the back of the placemat you're eating on. It was about evenly dividing six precious french fries and trying to steal her last apple slice when she wasn't looking.

That stuff was wonderful. But it was good to get the McNugget monkey off my back for another year or two, as well.

I was getting tired of seeing this in the mirror every day.
I do, however, have a growing craving for spicy Buffalo ostrich wings. I'm going to have to look for a place that sells those. I hope they come with a toy.

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