Monday, November 15, 2010

The Regressive Happy Meal Tax

Over the top restaurants always send you home with food for the kids.  That's part of the fantasy for parents going out without the kids.  Only at the end does the restaurant remind you they exist!

For several years, my wife drove around with giant, custom made lollipops from the long-gone Alain Ducasse on Central Park South in her glove compartment.  The kids never seemed well behaved enough to deserve them.  Last fall, after a bar mitzvah in Vegas, (no, I am not kidding,) we stopped in for the Menu Degustation at Joel Robuchon.  They sent us home with enough candy and pastries for an early Halloween.  (And, yes, they will modify the menu to exclude meat and shellfish, if you're concerned!)

Cut to San Francisco: Last week, the mayor vetoed the "veto proof" 8-3 vote to ban free toys, unless meals meet strict nutritional guidelines.  Target: Happy Meals.

Forget the nanny state stuff.  Let's cut to the chase: Banning Happy Meal toys taxes poor people.

Go look at Robuchon's tasting menu again: Sixteen courses.  Say 100 calories per course, which I doubt.  That's almost three Big Macs, and don't tell me there isn't as much fat.  That's not including any bread, (they "carve" butter for you table-side!), drinks, (a bottle of wine is good for 600 calories easy!) or the candy cart, (take as much as you want--only your shame constrains you!)  There's nothing healthy going on there.

Today is Monday.  Let's assume the veto is overruled before the end of the week.  Imagine I'm generous enough to bring my daughter (10) and son (7) with their cousin (10) to Acquerello when we're in San Francisco next week.  

We sit down at the table preparing for our fantasy.  Deep in thought.  This meal will be entirely unhealthy, yet delicious.  Too much butter.  Not enough vegetables.  Yum.  

For dessert, we order the Valrhona dark chocolate ganache with hucklerries and mascarpone.  I note for the waiter this dessert has more cholesterol and calories than a Whopper and fries.   He smiles, and chuckles politely.

Fantasy interrupted.  We've been here three minutes.  Simon hit his cousin.  Chaos breaks loose.  Waiter quickly brings crayons and paper.  Ah, free gift with dinner, of course!  Forget the crayons, if I order the 1992 Harlan, they'll bring the damn Harry Potter Lego set!  That'll keep them quiet all night long.  And no city ordinance is going to stop it.

Pity the parent who schleps their own toys to McDonalds!!

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