Andy Pudzer is famous for creating the “Monster Thickburger,” that’s the 1420-calorie burger sold at Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. since late 2004. This sandwich publicly flaunts its excess of calories and fat. Even though, as a culture, we have a growing awareness of healthy eating habits, there is still a huge demand for food that’s not good for us.
Food critics have demonized Pudzer, who says all he’s trying to do is offer consumers what they want. “These products sell better than health-conscious products. We don’t tell consumers what they want, they tell us.” I don’t knock Pudzer because he’s fattening us up. I think he’s right. Obesity is the number one public-health epidemic in the country today. The NPD Group, which tracks consumer eating habits (USA Today 5/13/05) reported that the most popular menu item ordered by men at restaurants last year was hamburgers, for women it was French fries. It’s not Pudzer’s problem, it is a societal failure. We have the means to eat healthier, but we do not have the will. Eat a “Monster Thickburger” for lunch, and if you don’t die by the next morning, it’s hard to deprive yourself.
Overindulgence is a metaphor for contemporary American life. We seem unable to set limits on ourselves materially, nutritionally, or emotionally. Until we take more responsibility for our eating choices and demand better choices in our joints and school cafeterias, we shouldn’t be complaining about our early exit. But you can be sure that sooner or later somebody is going to sue Hardee’s or Carl’s Jr. for selling a product that increased the likelihood of their having a heart attack or diabetes. It would be un-American not to point the finger of blame at someone other than ourselves. Pudzer only created his edible Frankenstein, but we’re the ones who are choosing to eat it.