LIFE
IN THE FAST FOOD LANE

In this recessionary era, patrons of haute cuisine restaurants have taken to eating in more downscale establishments. The trend is so great that many of the finest restaurants have had to rewrite their menus entirely in order to stay afloat. One restaurant after another has come up with promotional priced dinners, opened a smaller "café" branch next door, or in some way positioned itself as being more "value oriented." Truffles, Caviar and foie gras are disappearing from menus in favor of burgers and grilled chicken. How the mighty have fallen.

Now, it's one thing for an investment banker, short on deals, to decide to do a little belt-tightening by dining in the Grill Room of the Four Seasons rather than the Pool Room. But what of the mighty who have really taken a nosedive? The hordes of Olympia & York attorneys who are driving cabs? The legions of Amway salespeople, formerly Drexel employees, who are struggling to make ends meet? For them, skipping the appetizers at Le Cirque won't do the trick. They may be compelled to dine out where most Americans eat -- at fast-food joints. But a decade of lunching at Lutéce and the 21 Club might have rendered them completely out of touch with the simple cuisine that is served in these economical institutions. 

How could they be expected to know what KFC Hot WingsTM are? After all, when Drexel started to make money in earnest in the early eighties, KFC Hot WingsTM were not even a gleam in Colonel Sanders' eye. Walking into McDonald's or Popeye's today might be as intimidating for some of these people as the first day at a new school. Entering a fast-food restaurant would provoke an intense fear of committing a faux pas -- such as inquiring about the specials-of-the-day, or offering compliments to the chef (the chef is probably in Chicago or Louisville). The fast-food industry would be well-advised to launch a program to make these former yuppies feel at home. A whole new customer base awaits. And to best do that, they will need to translate the menus of their restaurants into terms familiar to their new clientele. Herewith is a guide to economical dining for disenfranchised arbitrageurs.

McDONALD'S "BIG MAC" ($2.99):
Our generously marbled ground chuck is sculpted into two patties which are seared on a cast-iron griddle. The patties are then ensconced in a domed sesame-studded roll, topped with fresh iceberg lettuce, tranchesof pickled cucumbers, a slab of cheese, and finished with our specially herbed sauce.
On the side, the chef recommends an order of frites, served with our foil-wrapped tomato coulis. 

ROY ROGERS "CHICKEN MEALS" (2 pieces for $4.49) 
Our fixed-range poultry is slaughtered under strict hygienic conditions. Each fowl is then carved into serving pieces which are dipped in an egg-based batter and coated with pepper, herbs, and crumbled yeast bread. Finally, they are plunged into a searing-hot vegetable oil bath to retain their moisture. Served with puréed potato under a chicken stock based sauce, a biscuit, and marinated fresh cabbage julienne. 

*10 cents supplement for all white meat.

McDONALD'S "CHICKEN McNUGGETS" (6 for $2.39):
Our poultry is carefully deboned and then only the breast and thigh meat are selected. The meat is minced and blended with eggs, spices and stone-ground cornmeal. Our chef then shapes the mixture into boulettes which are plunged swiftly into sizzling vegetable oil for a few moments, then allowed to drain before serving. Served with a quartet of sauces: Mustard, Sweet 'N Sour, Honey, and Barbeque. 

PIZZA HUT "BIG TOPPER®" ($3.29)
Our hard-wheat dough gets a healthy dose of fresh yeast and is encouraged to develop at its own natural rate. The chef stretches and spreads the rising dough, massaging it into a thick galette. It is then coated with herbs and a swirl of reduced tomato purée. Next the chef sprinkles the top with freshly minced cheese, beef and pork, and complements it with slices of pepperoni, mushrooms, green peppers and onions. It is baked in a scorching hot oven until crisp. Served with a traditional cola-flavored sparkling water ($.79) 

DEL TACO "TACO GRANDE" ($2.19)
We make our own tortillas from fresh ground whole-grain American corn. They are folded and then quickly crisped in searing-hot oil. The curved "shells" are first filled with a layer of ground beef infused with chili pepper essence and preserved jalapeños and a reduced tomato purée. They are then showered with fresh lettuce and sliced tomatoes and finally topped with a thin layer of shaved American cheese. Available with a side order of "El Scorcho", our cayenne pepper salsa. 

WENDY'S "HOT STUFFED BAKED POTATO WITH BROCCOLI AND CHEESE SAUCE" ($2.99)
We select only the largest Idaho potatoes which we slowly bake in our steel ovens. Just before serving, the potatoes are sliced open and stuffed with a farcie of steamed diced broccoli and a melted cheese béchamel sauce. 

BURGER KING "OCEAN CATCH"($2.19):
An escalope of fresh-frozen Icelandic cod is coated with bread crumbs and submerged briefly in scalding-hot vegetable oil. It is then glazed with herbed mayonnaise and placed inside a light, airy, delicate bun. Served with Sauce Tartare  on the side.


Andy Aaron is a New York television producer and writer. He is a member of the Clean Plate Club.