Culinary no-no #714


Remember her?

The queen of the Nanny State.

Michelle Obama decided since you were too stupid to figure out what constituted healthy foods for your children that she would dictate what you and your children should eat.

In 2010, when the governing party of the Nanny State controlled the White House, the US Senate and the US House, they rammed through the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 into law. Championed by Mrs. Obama the law mandated more fruits and vegetables, whole grains and less sodium in school lunches in exchange for more federal funding on meals.

When the legislation read, in part, “Congress finds that—‘‘(I) eating habits and other wellness-related behavior habits are established early in life; and ‘‘(II) good nutrition and wellness are important contributors to the overall health of young children and essential to cognitive development,” the party that creates policy with a crying towel couldn’t possibly have voted no.

School lunches were about to change, starting with the 2012 school year.

The US Department of Agriculture wrote:

“This rule requires most schools to increase the availability of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat free and low-fat fluid milk in school meals; reduce the levels of sodium, saturated fat and trans fat in meals; and meet the nutrition needs of school children within their calorie requirements. These improvements to the school meal programs, largely based on recommendations made by the Institute of the National Academies of Medicine, are expected to enhance the diet and health of school children, and help mitigate the childhood obesity trend.”

Can we say, “Feel good?”

Specifics, please. Again, from the USDA:

In summary, the January 2011 proposed rule sought to improve lunches and breakfasts by requiring schools to: 

• Offer fruits and vegetables as two separate meal components;

• Offer fruit daily at breakfast and lunch;

• Offer vegetables daily at lunch, including specific vegetable subgroups weekly (dark green, orange, legumes, and other as defined in the 2005 Dietary Guidelines) and a limited quantity of starchy vegetables throughout the week;

• Offer whole grains: half of the grains would be whole grain-rich upon implementation of the rule and all grains would be whole-grain rich two years post implementation;

• Offer a daily meat/meat alternate at breakfast;

• Offer fluid milk that is fat-free (unflavored and flavored) and low-fat (unflavored only);

• Offer meals that meet specific calorie ranges for each age/grade group;

• Reduce the sodium content of meals gradually over a 10-year period through two intermediate sodium targets at two and four years post implementation;

• Prepare meals using food products or ingredients that contain zero grams of trans fat per serving;

• Require students to select a fruit or a vegetable as part of the reimbursable meal…

The Nanny State provided a comparison of what was on the school menu before and what would be on the school menu in the future.

Here’s what would be served on a typical weekday:

Hot dog on bun (3 oz) with ketchup (4 T)

Canned Pears (1/4 cup)

Raw Celery and Carrots (1/8 cup each) with ranch dressing (1.75 T)

Low-fat (1%) Chocolate Milk (8 oz)

That was before the Nanny State ran amok.  The hot dog menu was now kaput. In its place:

Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Meat Sauce (1/2 cup) and Whole Wheat Roll 

Green Beans, cooked (1/2 cup)

Broccoli (1/2 cup)

Cauliflower (1/2 cup)

Kiwi Halves, raw (1/2 cup)

Low-fat (1%) Milk (8 oz)

Low Fat Ranch Dip (1 oz)

Soft Margarine (5 g)

Whole wheat spaghetti instead of a hot dog?  Sounds Communistic, not to mention totally unappetizing.

By the way, if schools didn’t comply with all these new good for you government rules and regulations, they faced losing government funding or be fined. Yes, you could call it blackmail.

For a time school districts were in acceptance, compliance, or simply acquiesced. Eventually, there came a rebellion, a food fight.

The New York Times reported students around the country were going on strike against the First Lady’s eating guidelines and significantly reduced portions. A GAO report indicated that there was a 1 million student decline in enrollment in school lunch programs directly related to Michelle Obama’s nutritional guidelines that government mandated schools follow.  And two Wisconsin school districts chose to get out from under the thumb of government control when it comes to what kids can eat at lunch.

Waterford Graded and Waterford High School districts both opted out from the federal lunch program. The reasons were outlined in a report by The Journal Times. 

Would Michelle and the rest of her nannies back down? Are you crazy?

Ben Velderman at reported it got goofier.

First, Michelle Obama seized control of your child’s school lunch and made it “healthy.” Now, the First Lady wants to change the way you buy groceries.

A new 80-page report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture explains that federal bureaucrats hope to use a variety of tools to modify the way Americans select food items at the supermarket.

Tools? What new tools? Please take a seat.

…the federal busybodies want to provide food-stamp shoppers with “incentives” for making healthy food choices – such as discounts or free movie tickets – and even talking shopping carts that will notify them when they’ve selected enough healthy items.

Say what?

…talking shopping carts that will notify them when they’ve selected enough healthy items. Again, the assumption was that you couldn’t possibly be as smart as Michelle Obama or some bureaucrat who are going to inform you what you should be choosing to dine.

In 2011, S.E. Cupp wrote a great column: Michelle Obama, are you calling me fat? First Lady’s war on junk food has gone too far:

“…when a First Lady or a government agency wants to dictate how much dinner I deserve to have, and how it should be prepared, I am once again under the harsh gaze of my ballet instructors, and my ability to control myself like the mature adult I am is replaced by an omniscient regulator’s guidelines. I understand what you’re trying to do, and I agree that we should raise healthier kids. Fewer video games and more soccer is a great start. But ultimately, responsibility has to be taught, instilled and enforced – not mandated by law. It has to come from parents and guardians, not from Capitol Hill.”


Here we go again.

Our disastrous POTUS has proposed an eye-popping $3.5 trillion federal budget. $3.5 trillion.

One of the provisions in the 2,645-page budget bill spends $643 million for, among other things, “procuring…culturally appropriate foods” for school lunches.

HEALTHY FOOD INCENTIVES DEMONSTRATION. 16 (a) In addition to amounts otherwise available, there is appropriated to the Secretary of Agriculture for fiscal year 2022, out of any money in the Treasury not otherwise appropriated, $634,000,000, to remain available until expended, to provide competitive grants to States in accordance with this section. (b) A State that receives a grant under this section shall use such grant funds to make subgrants to local educational agencies and schools for activities that support:

(1) serving healthy school meals and afterschool snacks that meet discretionary goals established by the Secretary;

(2) increasing scratch cooking;

(3) conducting experiential nutrition education activities, including school garden programs;

(4) procuring local, regional, and culturally appropriate foods and foods produced by underserved or limited resource farmers, as defined by the Secretary, to serve as part of the child nutrition programs under the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act or the Child Nutrition Act of 1966;  

(5) reducing the availability of less healthy foods, as defined by the Secretary, during the school day; or

(6) carrying out additional activities to encourage the development of healthy nutrition and physical activity habits among children.

(c) A State that receives a grant under this section may use such grant funds to fund a statewide nutrition education coordinator to—  (1) support individual school food authority nutrition education efforts; and (2) facilitate collaboration with other nutrition education efforts in the State.

(d) A State that receives a grant under this section may not use more than 5 percent of such grant funds to carry out administrative activities.

What it all means, who the hell knows? I envision a complete repeat of Michelle Obama’s array of inedibles.

Maybe kids will want to keep their masks on after all.


Fall Creek Schools Mask Lawsuit: Parent Calls Minocqua Brewing Company Owner “Bully”

Farmers Warn Of No Turkey Ahead Of Holidays…

Pumpkins scarce…

ICYMI…Culinary no-no #713

Culinary no-no #713


When October and fall rolls around, I do love what you can do with pumpkin (to a degree).

There’s pumpkin pie.

Pumpkin cheesecake.

Pumpkin crème brulee.

Pumpkin bread.

Pumpkin muffins.

Pumpkin cookies.

Pumpkin ice cream.

Pumpkin seeds.

Pumpkin soup.

Not sure if they still do it but Maggiano’s Little Italy restaurant at Mayfair used to highlight seasonal pumpkin martinis.

The San Francisco Chronicle website says:

Maggiano’s is part of a nationwide chain of Italian restaurants, and the Pumpkin Martini was created by David Pennachetti, director of beverages.

The drink is a simple affair that calls for pumpkin liqueur, spiced rum and half-and-half. It’s a great cocktail for this time of year. There are so many liqueur flavors on the market that it’s possible to make drinks that taste of almost any fruit, nut and herb. To find the best liqueurs, look for the percentage of alcohol in the bottle. You’ll pay more for a higher alcohol content, but the alcohol boosts the flavors in the liqueur and adds a sophisticated dryness to the product. Bols and Marie Brizard are very good brand-name liqueurs with extensive ranges of flavors, and both the Mathilde and Edmond Briottet lines, while not hugely wide-ranging, are superb products.

Ok, so I love pumpkin. Martini? YES!

How about another libation?

Our own Milwaukee-based Lakefront Brewery (and others) makes a seasonal pumpkin beer

I’m sure people drink it, otherwise breweries wouldn’t make it. Seems to me that’s just not right. Imagine pouring a Miller Lite into a glass, and then opening a can of pumpkin paste and spooning out a dollop to drop in the glass. In my book, pumpkin should be on your plate, not in your beer.

I’ve never understood fruity beers. Same goes for brats.

In Watertown, WI, Glenn’s Market (a great place BTW) sellsApple, Cherry, and Cranberry, brats.Many years ago you’d never find that on the extensive menu at Schwai’s Meat & Sausage in Fredonia, WI.

“I don’t think we’ve ever made a fruit brat; I’ve never even heard of it,” said Liz Schwai, whose family has been in the brat-making business in Ozaukee County for more than 70 years. “It sounds kind of gross.”

That’s because…it is.

But Schwai’s broke down and now offers fruity brats on a seasonal basis.

In Cedarburg, where the strawberry is revered, you can buy strawberry brats that are made with frozen strawberries, strawberry preserves and sugar-free strawberry gelatin.

Imagine your 4th of July backyard cookout. The grill is loaded with Usinger’s brats. You take them hot off the grill and proceed to smear Smuckers strawberry jam all over them or the buns.

I’ve had flavored brats: The Cajun from Usinger’s, the taco brat from Ray’s Butcher Shoppe, and from Glenn’s in Watertown, the pizza brat (with mozzarella cheese- a cross between an Italian and a brat) and the bacon and cheese. And they’re all very good.

You know where this is going? To our state capital. Madison, WI .

Butchers at the Jenifer Street  Market took Lake Louie Brewing Oktoberfest beer and tossed in some candy corn. The new Spook”Toberfest brats look like this.

Emoji Mashup Bot on Twitter: "😮 open-mouth + 🤮 vomiting =… "

Over-doing pumpkin isn’t a new Culinary no-no. We’ve saturated the fall market with too much pumpkin for quite some time. Just when I think they’re done crossing the line…


Speaking of pumpkins…

UPDATE: Culinary no-no #712: Featuring Chris Wiken of Milwaukee’s Packing House restaurant on FOX NEWS

Culinary no-no #712


Why the return of high inflation can no longer be excluded

NEWS FLASH: The Personal Consumption Expenditure (PCE) price index has increased 4.3 percent from one year ago. President Biden has a full blown raging inflation crisis on his hands. “When will this administration wake up and realize how hard they are making it for everyday Americans to make ends meet? Families are struggling to put food on the table, put gas in their cars and buy everyday goods each week. As inflation continues to increase and incomes stay the same, it is our poorest families, like mine growing up, that are hurt the most and unable to keep up,” said US Senator Rick Scott (R-FL).

Let’s boil this down with a closer look at the impact.





Whether at supermarkets, corner stores, or open-air markets, prices for food have been surging in much of the world, forcing families to make tough decisions about their diets. Meat is often the first to go, ceding space to less expensive proteins such as dairy, eggs, or beans. In some households, a glass of milk has become a luxury reserved only for children; fresh fruit, once deemed a necessity, is now a treat.

Even before the pandemic, about 35 million Americans were considered food insecure, defined as lacking consistent access to enough food for all members of a household, according to the nonprofit Feeding America. Last year, amid the huge spike in joblessness brought about by the Covid‑19 recession, the number jumped to 45 million, or more than 13% of the population.

—, August 2021

And check this out from Nate Jackson, writing in The Patriot Post:
“If you take out” beef, pork, poultry, explained Brian Deese of Joe Biden’s National Economic Council, “price increases … are more in line with historical norms.” That’s right. He said that other than the staples of most Americans’ diet, everything is fine and inflation is no big deal.

It reminds us of former Washington, DC, Mayor Marion Barry’s hilariously obtuse 1989 claim that, “except for the killings, Washington has one of the lowest crime rates in the country.”

The Biden administration’s attempt to downplay rampant inflation is laughable and infuriating all at once. According to Biden’s Labor Department, inflation finally eased a bit in August to an annual rate of 5.3%, but, applying a bit of Deese’s logic, that easing may be primarily because of rapidly declining used car prices, hotel rates, and airline fares.

It’s also because “core inflation,” which excludes food and energy, is up only 4%. Don’t you feel better?

“Pardon families if they doubt this because they don’t have the luxury of living on core items,” write the editors of The Wall Street Journal. “Prices for food consumed at home rose 3% over the past year, and prices for proteins such as meat, fish and eggs have increased 8%. Gas and electricity price rises accelerated from July to August, and the government’s index for all energy items has increased 25% over the past year. Producer prices, which work their way into consumer prices, were up 8.3% in August from a year earlier.”

School supplies and clothing are up anywhere from 3% to 10%. Fast food prices are up nearly 10% since May.

But go ahead, take the Labor Department’s number. What kind of country do we live in that slowing down to 5.3% inflation is good news?

Joe Biden’s country.

The reality is that inflation has become one of the biggest problems of 2021, and it’s driven by the effects of Democrat policies. First, lockdowns killed millions of jobs last year. Then Democrats insisted on paying the unemployed more to not work than they’d earn at a job, extending those benefits in many states all the way into this month. When people wouldn’t return to work except for much higher pay, it forced employers to raise prices. Faced with nearly 11 million job openings in the economy, there are supply chain disruptions all over the place, which also drives up prices.

Then Biden announced his vaccine mandate for employers of more than 100 people, which will keep people out of work or cost the employed their jobs. Hit “repeat” on the above cycle.

Yes, indeed, I’d call this a crisis.

ABOVE GRAPHICS: Americans For Prosperity – WI


Survey Regarding Current Impact of Pandemic on Wisconsin Restaurants

Why grocery stores are experiencing supply shortages…

ICYMI, Culinary no-no #711


Went to our favorite Sunday brunch spot today. Lots of TVs. Not one at 12 Noon was set to an NFL game. Instead, WNBA, and talking heads on ESPN.

What the hell?

Culinary no-no #711


Today’s TMJ 4 reported six months ago, March of this year…

What’s the situation now, a half year later?

The Wisconsin Policy Forum is a statewide nonpartisan, independent policy research organization with offices in Milwaukee and Madison. On Friday the Forum issued a six-page report on the struggling WI restaurant and bar industry. They’re rebounding, but the recovery is slow. Some of the report highlights:

*Restaurants and bars play a major role in the social lives of Wisconsin communities as places of celebration and daily socializing.

* Employment in the sector remains down by roughly 9%, its recovery in Wisconsin lags that of other industries and the nation, and a surge in new coronavirus cases suggests continued challenges ahead.

*The number of people employed at restaurants and bars in Wisconsin has recovered considerably since nosediving by nearly 50% in April 2020.

*According to preliminary federal data, however, employment in the “food services and drinking places” subsector was still down by nearly 20,000 (8.8%) in August 2021 compared to the same month in 2019

* Job recovery in this subsector has been weaker in Wisconsin than nationally, where employment was down only 6.1% in August 2021 relative to August 2019.

* It also lags job recovery for other major sectors in Wisconsin and the state’s economy overall.

*Customer demand is still somewhat lower than pre-COVID as some individuals choose not to go out to restaurants and bars as often as they did before the pandemic.

*Restaurant operators also have pointed out that as more people order food for takeout or delivery rather than dining in, they also purchase fewer alcoholic beverages from restaurants, which dampens sales and profits.

*Child care is another major factor that has hampered the state’s workforce throughout the pandemic. When schools and businesses closed in 2020, large numbers of child care providers similarly shut down or reduced slots. As businesses returned to in-person operations, many workers were left without child care options as providers were slower to reopen. This challenge could be easing as the number of child care centers in Wisconsin had rebounded to slightly above prepandemic levels as of June 2021.

*While no data source is currently available that could show precisely how many restaurants and bars in Wisconsin did not survive the pandemic, limited data from the state’s Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection (DATCP) suggests that hundreds more restaurants closed in Wisconsin than opened in 2020.

*The pandemic caused some restaurants and bars in Wisconsin to close permanently, but most have found ways to adapt and survive, thanks in part to the lifeline provided by federal and state grant and forgivable loan programs, which funneled more than $1 billion in federal funding to restaurants and bars in Wisconsin.

*Yet, many continue to face challenges, including an increasingly tight labor supply that may be driven in part by workers seeking better employment conditions in other industries.

* The loss in state-licensed businesses in 2020, current labor shortages, the rise in wholesale food prices, and the recent surge in new coronavirus cases shows that their challenges will likely continue for some time.

The entire report can be seen here.


I’m normally not a fan of boycotts. But I would make an exception and not touch this beer.

Posted by the Minocqua Brewing Company of WI:

Ok folks, we’ve got some news that will affect most every person in Wisconsin, and will hopefully set legal precedent in other states as well to protect kids and their families.

The Minocqua Brewing Company Super PAC has begun the process of building a class action lawsuit against every school board in Wisconsin that isn’t mandating masks for kids too young to get the vaccine and not following CDC guidelines for students while in school to protect against the deadly Delta variant.Why is a brewing company doing this instead of another group that’s supposed to protect kids? Because we can and we haven’t found anyone else willing to take the lead.

Here are the details.

We noticed that outside of the more sane urban areas of Wisconsin where school districts are still using science to protect children from the very contagious Delta variant, there has been a groundswell of obnoxious and very loud anti-intellectual, anti-mask, and anti-science voices overrunning school boards in the ‘burbs and in more rural areas.

School superintendents are being fired or quitting for trying to protect kids (Tomahawk, Minocqua).School board members voting to keep masking kids indoors who are too young for the vaccine are being forced into recall elections (Somerset, Oconomowoc, etc), and have even been physically threatened.

Keeping teachers safe is an afterthought, and that’s not right.

A large majority of parents are feeling helpless because they see Covid cases skyrocketing in their school districts, and absolutely nothing being done to prevent it.

Last week we put out a Facebook post calling for any parents whose kids have recently gotten Covid in school to reach out to us. We got a ton of responses from angry parents, and have found two plaintiffs ready to take their school boards to court in order to protect kids in the entire state.

How are we doing this? There are two federal judicial districts in Wisconsin: Eastern and Western. In order to protect all kids, we need to file a lawsuit in both districts—thus two plaintiffs.

Our lawyer obviously knows more about this than we do, but here’s the gist of what we plan to do:He’s going to use a “public nuisance” argument to convince judges in both districts to provide injunctive relief against all school boards actively promoting daily super spreader events by not forcing kids in schools to wear masks and socially distance. He says if we get the right judge, he/she could IMMEDIATELY force students to wear masks around the state until the defense has enough time to build a case.

This means as soon as we file these two lawsuits, we could IMMEDIATELY take strong action to stop kids from getting Covid and protect a lot of kids and their families.

We’ve decided to do this regardless of the cost, but these lawsuits will be expensive and we could use your help to fund them.To convince a judge to provide immediate injunctive relief, we are paying expert epidemiologists and infectious disease experts to write reports throughout this weekend showing how these schools boards are engaging in daily super spreader events by not taking steps to mitigate infection.

Experts and lawyers aren’t cheap, and we don’t know how long these lawsuits will last, but we do know that for some inexplicable reason, the Republican Party will fight tooth and nail against protecting children and their families, and will have unlimited resources to do so.

Our lawyer says these suits could run up to $100K over a six month period, but we hope we can strike a big blow right away and spend much less.If you’d like to help fund this lawsuit, here’s the link to our super PAC:…/minocqua-brewing-co-superpac The average contribution so far has been $40, and we’ve raised over $250K, so really, any little bit helps.

If you’re worried about your kid or grandkid getting Covid, and in turn giving it to you, because anti-science nut jobs are playing politics with school safety, consider chipping in for this lawsuit. These lawsuits are the very definition of doing something for the “Public Good.” We have had enough selfish “My Freedom is more important than Public Health” sentiment in this state and country. It’s time for intelligent and reasonable adults to take the wheel and the anti-intellectual “I’ve done my own research” bottom-dwellers to sit down and shut up.

Thanks for standing up for what is right and helping us protect children and families in Wisconsin. We will “Make Wisconsin Great Again” by trusting in science and by taking the politics out of public health. And afterwards, we can celebrate with a beer.

Thanks for your help,
Kirk Bangstad, Owner, Minocqua Brewing Company and Super PAC

MY VIEW: Stop being judgmental. Support people being allowed to make their own health choices. Shut up and stick to selling beer.

ICYMI: Culinary no-no #710

Culinary no-no #710


We all know what happened on September 11, 2001.

Three years ago this month I blogged about a 9/11 Culinary no-no:

Ledo Pizza began near The University of Maryland in 1955  and has grown from that first restaurant to over one hundred locations throughout Maryland, D.C., Virginia, South Carolina, West Virginia, and Florida.

I’ll bet it’s pretty doggone tasty.

From their Facebook page:

A critical role that Ledo Pizza takes pride in is giving back to the community through local fundraisers and charitable events. Through giving back to the communities by holding fundraisers at various locations for schools, sports teams, and local hospitals Ledo Pizza gives time and donations that can make a difference.

Sounds like they’re wonderful business people. But what’s that saying about good intentions?

Ledo promotes patriotism throughout the year and did so again this month.

You can guess the reaction.

I would imagine losing your job as a social media manager for a pizza company because you posted a flag pizza to commemorate one of America’s worst tragedies will be pretty hard to forget, yes.

Never forgot the time you used 9/11 to promote your pizza

Ledo apologized, not once, but three times.

Our Twitter post was never intended to diminish the gravity of September 11th and has since been removed.

Again, if you are familiar with Ledo Pizza, you know that we would never intentionally do anything to dishonor our flag and we hope that you can find it in your heart to forgive us for this misstep.

I’m sure Ledo meant no harm. But they probably should have known better.

Manufacturers need to be smart and sensitive. Campbell Soup had to apologize for this 2013 Pearl Harbor Day tweet.

“You don’t want to be seen as making money off this (9-11). The strategy might be to remain silent. It avoids things like risk and getting it wrong,” said Jennifer Grygiel, assistant professor of communications at Syracuse University.

“The watchword should be respect,” said Robert Passikoff, founder of Brand Keys, a New York-based brand research consultancy. “The watchword should be care—both of your brand and of the moment. Because although there are consumers now who weren’t there at the time, this is a moment in our history that isn’t going away. Brands had better learn how to deal with it well, or consumers will make them pay for it.”

Back to Ledo. After deleting their post they reconsidered and put the flag pizza back up, to the delight of their followers.

Thank you for reposting this. It is nothing but respectful.

What a wonderful looking flag and pizza. United We Stand, divided we fall.

Why would you apologize for making that pizza on your Twitter account. You are an American company showing respect to 9/11.. God bless this country.

I saw your apology on Twitter, but you didn’t need to apologize. Love Ledo AND America! Thank you for honoring 9/11.

Love this Ledo. Oklahoma knows the spirit intended in the presentation of this pie. The great American melting pot of people, cultures and (of course) great food is represented here. This is a most appropriate expression of respect from a NewYork Pizzaria. Ya done good guys. Thank you.

Never be afraid to be a proud American!

If this offends anybody, the problem is theirs, not yours.

Never apologize again. Please. Don’t give in to those people or that mentality. There was nothing offensive about the ad or its intent. You have a great company, and outstanding pizza!

Thanks for not caving.

No difference between this and the flag cake I make with blueberry stars and strawberry stripes on a white whipped cream background

My call: Ledo could and should have used better judgment.

—Culinary no-no #624, September 22, 2019


Something like that couldn’t happen again, right?


How about a bar.

In Dallas.

Where they have a special like Wing Wednesday… with 25 cent wings from 9pm until 11pm. Get it.

‘Two full bars’ – or ‘the Twin Counters.’

In 2013 owner Brent Johnson remodeled his bar and renamed it after one of the worst tragedies in American history.

Johnson swears his motivation was to remind patrons not to forget the murders of 9/11.

And the bar has no inappropriate decor.

I don’t care. It’s in poor taste. It’s wrong.


10% of Wisconsin restaurants went out of business during the pandemic

ICYMI, Culinary no-no #709

Culinary no-no #709


MILL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 22: Cars line up at a McDonald's drive-thru on April 22, 2020 in Mill Valley, California. McDonald’s announced plans to offer free Thank You Meals to first responders on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic between April 22 and May 5. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

I’m old enough to remember when a pimply faced teenager would take your McDonald’s order, write it down on a notepad with pencil, then add it all up as you stood and watched, hoping desperately the kid got it right.

Bad. Very bad.

Located at 76th and Rawson is Franklin’s (WI) only McDonald’s. Drive-thrus at fast food places are generally inconsistent. However, I give high marks to the drive-thru staff here in Franklin.

Most often the order is accurate. I don’t have to beg for napkins or a receipt. Workers have a friendly attitude. There are occasions where it’s obvious they’re not totally interested. But that’s an exception.

Drive-thru efficiency could be better at McDonald’s.

The market research company SeeLevel HX has been conducting their QSR (Quick-Service Restaurant) Drive-Thru study for 20 years. The 2020 edition was released last November.

A comprehensive, nationally representative survey of drive-thru consumers in the U.S. was done using an online survey sample. Data was collected across at least 85 visits to drive-thrus at ten chains during the 2020 summer, just a few months after a national emergency was declared.

The study partnered with FoodserviceResults to study consumer satisfaction across a range of metrics at 17 limited-service companies. Figures were compiled that represent percentage of customers who were highly or somewhat satisfied by brand drive-thru experiences.

You can see McDonald’s needs improvement.

What could be a solution?

More workers?

Better workers?

Better training of workers?

Try removing a huge chunk of the human element.

Automation. Big time.

Back in June McDonald’s Corp. began testing automated voice order-taking technology at about 10 drive-thru restaurants in the Chicago area. According to McDonald’s CEO Chris Kempczinski the new system is about 85% accurate and can take about 80% of orders. Some staff would be trained to work alongside the machines. “There is a big leap between going from 10 restaurants in Chicago to 14,000 restaurants across the U.S.” said Kempczinski. “Do I think in five years from now you’re going to see a voice in the drive-thru? I do, but I don’t think that this is going to be something that happens in the next year or so. There’s still a lot of work, but I do feel good about the technical feasibility of it and the business case.”

The results thus far?

“One of the things that we’ve learned in our 10 restaurants that we’ve done it is: How do you train a crew to actually not want to jump in as soon as they hear a question or a pause?” Kempczinski said. “We’ve had to do a little bit of training of ‘just keep your hands off the steering wheel, let the computer do its work.’ As soon as there was a question or a hiccup, the crew had a tendency to just want to jump in. And it took a little bit of time to actually learn to trust the technology.”

So, to repeat, voice recognition software can get 85% of orders correct.

BUT, staff had to step in for around one in five orders.

And hang around in case a human had a complaint.


ICYMI, Culinary no-no #708

Culinary no-no #708


No photo description available.

A craving.

Had one a week or two ago.

Grilled hot dogs. But not just plain hot dogs.

Jennifer went over to the nearby Sendik’s and made a purchase, one that I could slather all over those doggies. Delish. Last time I devoured such a combo I believe Reagan was still in the White House.

If you read the bonus section in last week’s Culinary no-no you know that evening mentioning chili in the summer is taboo to some. I say baloney!

Two chili dogs.  All beef. Sendik’s award-winning chili. What could possibly go wrong?

Just the fact that I’m slowly killing myself prematurely.

Researchers at the University of Michigan evaluated more than 5,800 foods, ranking them by their nutritional disease burden to humans and their impact on the environment.

One of their many findings: eating a hot dog shortens your life by 36 minutes. On the contrary a peanut butter and jelly sandwich adds 33 minutes to your life. That hardly seems fair.

My chili dogs just shaved 1 hour and 12 minutes off my lifespan.

I’m guessing that conservatively I put away about 20 hots dogs a year. That amounts to 12 hours I fritter away.

And what about brats, Italian sausages, chorizo? How much damage are those babies doing to the longs days in my short life?

Lots of mumbo jumbo in a publication from the University of Michigan. Here’s a sample you don’t need multiple degrees to comprehend.

The health burden attributable to a serving of beef hotdog on a bun is 36 min lost, largely due to the detrimental effect of processed meat. For vegetable pizza (1.4 min lost per serving) and apple pie (1.3 min gained per serving), the health benefits from some vegetables and fruits are offset by the detrimental health effects of sodium and TFAs (Trans Fatty Acids). The beneficial health effects of seafood-sourced omega-3 fatty acids, nuts and legumes are highlighted in the cases of baked salmon, salted peanuts, and rice with beans.

Minutes of healthy life gained or lost for all US foods

We estimated the HENI (HEalth Nutritional Index) scores per standard serving for 5,853 foods consumed in the US diet. Median HENI scores by food category range from 35 min lost per serving of frankfurter sandwiches) up to 33 min gained per serving of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

However, estimates can be as low as 71 min lost per serving for corned beef with tomato sauce and onion. The damaging effects of processed meat overpower the benefit of the small amounts of tomatoes and onions in that food. Interestingly, our results offer unambiguous and generalizable inferences for only a few food categories. HENI scores for frankfurter and breakfast sandwiches, burgers and red meat are almost exclusively negative, indicating that eating an additional serving of these foods is health-damaging. On the other hand, increasing the consumption of nuts and of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (driven by nut content), legumes, seafood, fruits, snack bars, ready-to-eat cereals and non-starchy vegetables is health beneficial as most of these foods have positive HENI scores.

So, in a nutshell, beef, processed meat, pork, lamb, cheese and sugar-based drinks cause the most healthy minutes lost, while nuts, fruits, vegetables and whole grains provide the most healthy minutes gained.

Hey Jennifer, next time at Sendik’s, pick up some Jif and Smucker’s.


This Culinary no-no I wholeheartedly support!

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