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Kevin Fischer is a veteran broadcaster, the recipient of over 150 major journalism awards from the Milwaukee Press Club, the Wisconsin Associated Press, the Northwest Broadcast News Association, the Wisconsin Bar Association, and others. He has been seen and heard on Milwaukee TV and radio stations for over three decades. A longtime aide to state Senate Republicans in the Wisconsin Legislature, Kevin can be seen offering his views on the news on the public affairs program, "InterCHANGE," on Milwaukee Public Television Channel 10, and heard filling in on Newstalk 1130 WISN. He lives with his wife, Jennifer, and their lovely young daughter, Kyla Audrey, in Franklin.

Culinary no-no #210

Culinary no-no's

Did you happen to watch the Macy’s Parade last Thanksgiving?

I remember seeing Ronald McDonald. He was in this really cool car.

The red and yellow clown has been around almost as long as there’s been McDonald’s. The big fella is to the hamburger chain what Mickey is to Disney.

Not anymore.

Come to think f it, I believe I haven’t seen Ronald on TV since that parade in November.

A new marketing strategy by the #1 fast food chain doesn’t have Ronald disappear. But you’ll be seeing less of him as McDonald’s, according to marketing experts, tries to appeal to more sophisticated individuals with a Starbucks feel.

The prevailing wisdom behind the new marketing approach is that the Golden Arches doesn’t sell hamburgers, it sells coffee and lattes. With all the furor over kids being too obese and McDonald’s a favorite scapegoat, there is less emphasis on burgers and fries. Ronald McDonald is an in-your-face reminder of the restaurant’s past with its traditional fatty offerings. Thus, Ronald isn’t quite banished to the showers. He simply takes a seat on the bench.

The McCafe push is on. Leslie Patton reports on Bloomberg News:

“The latest McCafe commercials feature lesser-known stars such as Irish dancing pair Suzanne Cleary and Peter Harding doing some serious hand clapping while sipping coffee. In another, R&B singer Bryson ‘Cupid’ Bernard does the McCafe shuffle while crooning about ‘frappes so sweet and so creamy.’ They’re a far cry from 1980s TV spots showing Ronald picnicking in the forest with Grimace and touting ‘Bambi’ Happy Meal toys.

While Ronald may no longer light up the small screen, he still springs up around town to brighten kids’ birthdays and school assemblies. Ronald also has some job security thanks to his charity work at his 300 Ronald McDonald Houses, which lodge families who need to be near their sick children.”

Given what fancy coffee has done for their bottom line, McDonald’s is wise to percolate and promote. But you can’t and shouldn’t re-write history. Kids have always loved McDonald’s and always will. So why demote the famous clown?

Over at Whining and Dining, blogger Samanatha Cardimon is kind of worked up about this and she has a point. Unfortunately, the nanny state food police that have been nitpicking and nitpicking away have finally got to the Golden Arches. Cardimon writes:

“But screwing with McDonald’s? That’s an American institution and Ronald is everybody’s vaguely creepy uncle who actually means well. Yes, I know he’s a clown and that clowns are spooky. But he’s our clown. He’s America’s clown. And we need him.

I can’t actually think of a time when we needed Ronald McDonald more. We are constantly being bombarded by whiny do-gooders who are trying to make us feel bad about eating something that tastes good. Yes, I know. Trust me, I know. You can’t eat McDonald’s food all the time. Kids should be taught good food habits. I get it. But honest to God, Food Police. Lighten up! Do you actually think that ‘hiding’ chocolate milk behind the regular low-fat milk is going to deter school kids from reaching around to get at the chocolate stuff? Do you think that more school lunches will be eaten if you replace French fries with carrot sticks on ‘Fish Sandwich Friday’? Do you? I don’t. Not for one instant.

I’m not so old that I don’t remember school lunches. And let me tell you, more food hit the trash on spinach and stewed tomato days than it did on pizza day. It’s a fact of kid life. If your child eats spinach and stewed tomatoes, then good for him. You hit the offspring jackpot. But the majority of eight year olds haven’t developed a sophisticated food palate. They are going to turn their noses up at most stuff.”

You go girl! (Nice title, by the way!)

I’m sorry. This whole sophistication deal. To me, a McDonald’s can only be so sophisticated.

That leads me to another McDonald’s angle. I’ve been to some nuptial celebrations that have been very far from upper crust. A childhood friend of mine had her reception in the back room of a south side Milwaukee bar. Performing was a combo called “The Polish Hawaiians.” Another party I attended in basement of a large hall brought in boxes and boxes of Domino’s Pizza at about 5:00. Guests were booted out at the close of festivities at 7:00.

I’m not sure this idea will catch on.

Finally, several weeks ago I included as a Culinary no-no extra the new oatmeal menu item at McDonald’s. My wife, Jennifer, an oatmeal lover, tried it recently so I asked her to write about her experience:

I do not “love” fast food breakfast but I do eat it occasionally and don’t mind it.  I think only briefly about how my arteries are clogging with each bite.  If I wash down a McGreasy with orange juice, doesn’t that up the healthy factor?

So when McDonald’s introduced their oatmeal I thought to myself, “I’d try that sometime.”  My willingness to try it was part intrigue and part desire for something a bit healthier than fat-and-sodium-on-a-biscuit.  I’m not terribly fussy about my oatmeal but I do expect a few things.  I want its texture to be hearty but not chunky.  I want it to be thick but not like concrete.  And I want flavor:  I could never eat it without some brown sugar or syrup or fruit.

Did McD’s fruit and maple oatmeal live up to my expectations?  It certainly did!  I was pleasantly surprised for many reasons.  The serving size was perfect for me.  It was delightfully hot but didn’t take layers off of the roof of my mouth.  The texture was comforting and creamy and had just the right amount of chewiness.  The maple flavor wasn’t overpowering (I was a little concerned it might be.)  And the amount of fruit (green apple, raisins, and dried cranberries) was generous.

An added bonus?  I felt better about my drive-thru choice.  Oh, I knew there was a lot of sugar in there.  However, I knew some of it was natural due to the fruit.  And everyone is aware that oatmeal can reduce your cholesterol.  I’ve never heard of a McMuffin that can do that!

That’s Jennifer’s perspective. It differs greatly from that of Mark Bittman of the New York Times.

Amazing. Simply amazing. I’ll never understand why so many people get their blood pressure to such unhealthy levels over anything McDonald’s.


This guy…

And his not one, but two goddesses…

Charlie Sheen Goddesses (PICTURES): Who are Natalie Kenly and Rachel Oberlin?

Have been the talk of the entertainment world the past few weeks. So why wouldn’t they make Culinary no-no?

Although, I must admit, I’d try one of

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