<FANTASY                            


Notice just one tomato slice>


Truth is geekier than fiction...

<Notice two fat tomato slice

  REALITY CHECK>

The Remy C. Burger King Veggie Burger Taste Test 

 

August 27th 2002

This experience reminded me why I have not set foot in a fast food joint in years... 

My local Burger King is right across the road from my favorite bike shop, and from where I get most of my fruits and veggies, a nifty little place owned and run by nice folks from somewhere south of the border... The contrast is dramatic. 

I'd been meaning to try this "thing" just to encourage Burger King to do the right thing... and this week I finally walked across the street.

Glued to the glass door is a huge photo of a glorious veggie burger, that looks two inches thick, with two big fat slices of juicy tomato, a giant lettuce leaf, a plump crusty sesame bun and a crunchy golden roasted veggie patty. I'm suckered in. Even though the poster inexplicably says: Try One - Next Time, I'm determined to try one like "now?" this time around?*

The moment I set foot into the place, I get this God awful feeling I'm suddenly waiting in line at the motor vehicle department. The same kind of oppressive fluorescent lights and cold floors send a chill up my spine. There's a topographic map of Connecticut rivers on the wall for some strange reason, so I lose myself into that while waiting my turn behind the rope.

Everybody eating at the tables and moving about is overweight, with sunken eyes, looking dramatically undernourished. All the kids behind the counter act like they just jumped off the illegal immigrant truck. They're sweating, they're rushed, they have a glazed look over their face, like hamsters trapped in their cage, like deer caught in headlights. You know they hate wearing the silly hats.

The only white face in the bunch is a tall white man with red hair and freckles, dressed all in black, looking more like a muscle bound Irish prison warden than a restaurant manager, quietly giving orders to his captive staff through his wireless headset microphone. 

I try to find the veggie burger on the lit sign above their heads and there it is: $1.99. Ouch! That's a bit steep for two slices of make-believe bread and mystery fake-meat. I can almost get a decent all-natural chicken sandwich in a health food store for that price. I thought Burgers at BK were like, 99 or something.  

It's all I order as the girl throws me this is-that-all-you-want look. She gives me a number and I wait on the side for a few minutes as other people walk past me with their order pre-made, all ready to go,  waiting for them under the infra-red keeping-it-warm lamp. 

I can see into the kitchen, where my veggie patty has been liberated from its frozen box and thrown on the gooey grill to swap spit with its meat brothers.

Everybody is handling everything with surgical gloves. Didn't anybody tell them human hands contain natural anti-septic while plastic gloves just shuttle germs from one place to the other? I shutter, good thing the thing's cooking. 

After a few minutes a small little white wrapper falls down the chute and my number is called up. The girl slips it in a bag to-go wondering what planet I'm from. 

Around the corner I notice another poster on the wall of an old fashion diner, all shiny steel siding and neon lights, a nostalgic remnant from America's love affair with Route 66... The very thing shops like BK have displaced and annihilated with their crappy, crappy food eaten by folks who don't seem to know any better. 

I get the creeps and walk out to get some fresh air, back to the vegetable market where everybody is having a good time replenishing rapidly dwindling shelves. I leave the burger in the bag in my car and I don't open it until I get home. 

The burger looked quite sad, all lukewarm, flat and soggy. I stare at it, wondering if I really want to subject my stomach to the abuse. I apprehensively and cautiously take my first bite. There's only one tomato slice and it's so small I don't find it first bite around. There's no lettuce leaf to speak of except for a few slivers of industrial iceberg. I chance another bite and find a miniature tomato slice swimming in white "iffy" sauce.

The veggie patty itself tastes OK, just O.K., but it's burned to a charcoal black crisp drippin' sloppy meat fat. I can't really make out what's in it, probably soybean GMO. I remember to stop eating so I can take a picture. 

The first two bites were so salty I'm suckered into gulping down the rest. Two minutes later I regret it. My belly rebels, like when I eat too many potato chips. I can feel my stomach struggling to find some heavy duty enzymes...

I've never read Fast Food Nation cover to cover. I'm sure it's a great book. It got a lot of great press. But a few days after I had my one and only experience with BK's timid attempt at pleasing PETA, I found this amazing new title at the local public library: 

"Fast Food, Fast Track, Immigrants, Big Business and the American Dream
by Jennifer Parker Talwar

In it I learn that today all the workers at Burger King are either Latino, Asian, African or Hindi, and that each franchise owner is usually white making $150,000 a year, seven times more than the poor slob doing all the s... work. 

I can't help thinking that if you let these kids run loose and free in the kitchen to prepare their own traditional foods, the kind their mother cooked for them where they grew up in their native land, it would taste so much better. Everybody would be wearing a big smile and having a great time experimenting and making people happy. But that would be Disneyland.

The first quote in Fast Food, Fast Track is from a fast food worker in Chinatown: 

"We are all from China but speak different languages. I speak Mandarin. They speak Cantonese. So we are always communicating with English." 

While Burger King is destroying your taste buds and your stomach lining with food cooked without love, it's also hard at work fermenting the next peasant pitch-fork rebellion. So it ain't all bad.

If, like in the movie Signs, aliens came from outer space and decided to fatten up suburban humans before harvest, they couldn't have concocted a better ploy! 

Remy C.

*Hey BK PR guys? What's up with that remark? Why would you only want BK customers to try the BK Veggie next time? Is there some kind of subliminal failure message in that poster so in a few months you can quietly discontinue veggie burgers and tell the world veggie burgers didn't sell, kinda like what GM did with the EV1 electric car?

BK Veggie List of Ingredients

In the UK...

From: 
http://www.dooyoo.co.uk/review/296213.html

BK Veggie Burgers vs Veggie Whoppers - Bait & Switch!!!
Written on 06.08.01
by Daves

Advantages: Used to have the tasty Veggie Whopper.
Disadvantages: Are now switching the Veggie Whopper for the BK Veggie Burger. They don't tell you that they are selling you a Veggie Burger. They taste disgusting.

Oh they are a tricky bunch at Burger King. 

I have been happily eating Burger King Veggie Whoppers for some time now. Not all the time, mind. Just every now and then when I've had a heavy night or am on the way to catch a train and am in a hurry. 

It is then that Veggie Whoppers hit the spot- they taste nicer, fresher, and feel healthier (no joke here) than their McDonald's counterpart which is a greasy fried patty of peas, carrots and other veg fodder from Old McDonald's farm. Burger King's Veggie Whoppers don't sit as heavy in the stomach as the Spicy Beanburger (which is a beanfest laying on a heavy slice of cheddar cheese). I like Veggie Whoppers and am glad that Burger King makes them. 

It was only a few weeks ago that I was about to catch a train. I queued up at Burger King and ordered a Veggie Whopper meal. I spotted a poster which heralded something called the new BK Veggie Burger. What is that, I wondered. But wasn't curious enough to try it myself. It looked a lot like the McD's version of vegetarian. 

After I boarded the train and was careening safely down the track, I opened my bag and found no Veggie Whopper. Instead it was a BK Veggie Burger. I took a bite and wanted to retch. It was oily, crunchy on the outside with soft, smooshy, veg inside with the consistency of baby food. It made me feel sick. After two more bites, I confirmed it was officially disgusting and threw it in the bin. Was I a victim of the old bait and switch? I thought so. And by that time I was on the way to another town too far to complain about it. 

Last week, I again went to Burger King and was conscious that I might unwittingly get a BK Veggie Burger. I ordered a Veggie Whopper and then clarified by saying, "I am ordering a Veggie Whopper right?" and the girl with the heavy Spanish accent said, "You want a veggie burger." No, I said, Not a BK Veggie burger. Not that monstrosity that is in that poster up there, I affirmed. I want a Veggie Whopper. 

"All we have is the Veggie Burger." 

I left there with only a portion of onion rings. They are not getting away with this. The sign says that these BK Veggie Burgers are only around for a limited time- perhaps they cut a deal with Old McDonald's Farm and have received a surplus of inadequate discuses of fried vegetable surprise but I for one am not buying any of it. 

I am boycotting Burger King until the return of the original Veggie Whopper. I hope that you veggies in the audience do the same. 

Warning: New Burger King Veggieburger Contains Butter by Sydney Levine