Citizen of the Month

the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Fruit and Walnut and Procrastination Salad

fruit.jpg

Here is today’s Citizen of the Month’s word of the day: Procrastination.

For some reason, I have a feeling that many of you are familiar with this word.

There are different levels of procrastination. Watching the pre-Golden Globes Award Show rather than doing your bills is a mild form of procrastination. You can rationalize it by saying “everyone else is doing it.” Other forms of procrastination are more embarrassing, like downloading videos from wet-tshirtvideos.com.

My form of procrastination today occurred during lunch. It began when I went to McDonald’s. Why did I go to McDonald’s? After all, I live in the land of 1000 Fast Food Restaurants, and I went to boring ol’ McDonald’s. The reason I went to the Golden Arches has less to do with today’s word of the day, procrastination, than with last week’s words of the day: laziness and indecisiveness.

Once in McDonald’s, I felt guilty for just being there. Most of their menu is just crap. Last time I was there, I tried to be “healthy,” but I was not impressed with their bland chicken sandwich. I decided to “be good” and order a salad, but the DOLLAR menu was beckoning to me like a cheap hooker.

“Why spend over four dollars on a salad when you can buy a hamburger for $1!” the dollar menu said to me. “Do you have money to throw away? Think how proud your family will be when they learn you had lunch for $1!”

I went to the counter and ordered a hamburger.

“Is that all?” snapped the teenager girl behind the counter.

I noticed other customers looking at me with unfriendly glances, as if they were thinking, “What type of freak ONLY orders a $1 hamburger?”

“Would you like a fries and a drink?” the teenager asked.

I caved in to the pressure.

“Uh, I’ll have a coffee.”

“A Coke?”

“A coffee.”

“Coke or Diet Coke?”

This is not the first time that someone outside of New York City didn’t understand me when I said “kawfee.”

“A cup of cof-fee” I said in my best midwestern anchorman voice.

“Is that it? Would you like something else?”

This girl was relentless. Are McDonald’s employees taught to bug you until you order THREE items?

I quickly scanned the board and randomly ordered McDonald’s Fruit and Walnut Salad, which cost me about two dollars.

Here is what Wikipedia has to say about McDonald’s Fruit and Walnut Salad:

The fruit and walnut salad is a fruit dish sold in US branches of global fast-food chain McDonald’s. It was launched by famous tennis player Venus Williams in May 2005 [1], and is part of their move towards creating a healthier image.

The ingredients are seedless grapes, apple slices, candied walnuts and low-fat vanilla yogurt. Including the walnuts, it has 330 calories. The apple slices are dipped in the preservative calcium ascorbate, a compound of calcium and vitamin C, in order to keep them crisp and prevent them losing color and flavor. Calorie-count.com rates its good points as: very low in cholesterol, low in sodium, and very high in vitamin C, and its bad point as “very high in sugar”.

US apple producers welcomed the expected extra demand for their products. McDonald’s announced that it expected to require 54 million pounds (25 million kg) of apples per year. The move makes them the largest food-service customer for apple producers.

McDonald’s corporation has now switched to the Snack Size Fruit & Walnut Salad, a much smaller version than the original salad.

So, apparently, what I received was not the original salad, but the new “snack size” fruit and walnut salad.

I’m not the type who complains in restaurants, if you can call McDonald’s a “restaurant,” but this fruit and walnut salad was a major disappointment, not because of the taste, but because of the size of the product. The “salad” was literally 1/2 of a sliced apple, five grapes, a teeny-tiny plastic bag of candied walnuts, and three tablespoons of yogurt. If I really wanted small-size entrees, I’ll go to some fancy French restaurant, not to McDonald’s.

This fruit and walnut salad was really beginning to piss me off. This is what they pass off as something healthy? I could put together this crappy “salad” in two minutes, and it would cost 1/4 the price. I tried to forget all about it. My plan was to do some writing in McDonald’s, but as I ate my lunch, my mind kept on focusing on back on this wimpy fruit and walnut salad. It began to represent something BIGGER than just a cheap fruit salad at a fast-food joint. It became a symbol of how all of us have been cheated and ripped-off by too many people too many times!

Of course, some might wonder if I really was THAT upset about this fruit and walnut salad? OR was I using it as an way to PROCRASTINATE and not do my work? You make the call!

“I wonder how much profit they’re making on this fruit and walnut salad.” I asked myself. There was only one way to find out. I counted exactly how many pieces of each “healthy item” were in the plastic container and walked over to Ralph’s Supermarket to find the truth out for myself. Take that John Stossel!

With pen in hand, I started my research in the fruit section. Delicious Apples were selling for $1.49 a pound. I threw one apple onto the scale so I could figure out the exact cost of a 1/2 apple. I stood there a few moments, trying to figure out the math in my head, but luckily I remembered that my cell phone had a calculator.

Figuring out the correct price for six grapes was more difficult, and required some mathematical equations that I hadn’t used since the ninth grade. It’s also surprisingly time-consuming to count how many grapes are in a bunch without losing track of the numbers.

Next, I divided the cost of a box of candied walnuts by 1/12th.

The cost of three tablespoons of yogurt was the most confusing.

Luckily, a friendly Ralph’s Supermarket employee came by and asked “Can I help you with anything?”

“Yes, you can.” I answered. “How much would you guess three tablespoons of yogurt would cost?”

At first, he thought I was just crazy, but his attitude changed when I explained what I was doing.

“Hey, it’s great you’re doing this. My wife once ordered that fruit and walnut salad in McDonald’s. What a rip-off! She went back to eating Big-Macs. At least with a Big Mac, they give you some food! This is an important issue that affects us all. You should write this in the Los Angeles Times!”

(Do you hear that Los Angeles Times? Tough luck, suckers. You rejected me last time.  This hot story is going right to the Washington Post!)

The result: McDonald’s makes a enormous profit through their Fruit and Walnut Salad. And that’s not even including the discount they must get by buying in bulk.

Thanks, Jim from the Ralph’s Supermarket in Hermosa Beach for your assistance in the expose!

I arrived home from lunch two hours later. I was exhausted from all my hard research and thought I deserved to take a nap.

Which I did.

A Year Ago on Citizen of the Month: The Toothbrush

40 Comments

  1. An excellent example of procrastination Neil. You really painted the picture well.

  2. That salad sounds yummy. I’m going to have to make a run to the grocery store and pick up the ingredients and make myself one for lunch before I get too deep in my current project.

  3. After all that math you did, I feel let down that you didn’t share the numbers. I’m sorry, but I just don’t believe you, without the hard numbers in front of me. I believe that McD’s actually takes a major hit with their salad.

  4. i haven’t been to mcyummies for years, never even heard of that salad. i’m pretty sure mcdonald’s makes a huge profit on eveything they are selling. think of the cost of one potato (don’t forget they aren’t paying retail either), think of what they charge for fries.

  5. You have problems with the word “coffee”, I have problems when I am in the US and I say “water”. Apparently my Aussie accent is hard to understand on that word and so I have to use an American accent (which makes me feel really self-conscious and like a fraud, but at least I get my bottle of water).

  6. Oy, procrastination is the bane of my existence and I was just thinking about how reading and writing blogs aids and abets serial procrastinators like us in a very dangerous way. I have to finish a freelance project today and you’ve convinced me that I must sit my ass down and DO IT.

    But about McDonald’s, go watch “Supersize Me” again. There’s no reason to ever walk into that hellhole–especially living in L.A. If you crave a hamburger, you should head straight to In n’Out or even better, the deliciously fresh “Apple Pan” on Pico near Westwood (oh wait, didn’t you write a post once about how disappointed you were in that place?). In any event, I’m glad you now see the folly in McDonald’s allegedly “healthy” offerings. The only thing such foods are doing is bringing healthy profits to their corporate coffers. JUST SAY NO!

  7. I have never understood people who order a salad at a fast food restaurant. I would eat a salad at McDonalds if they substituted the lettuce with fries and then put an almost-entirely beef patty on top. I would get it with a Diet Coke.

  8. Excellent job of procrastinating. Also I would never buy a salad at a place like the Arches because (1) I would be concerned with the taste, and (2) it would probably be a ripoff. At least that’s what I thought the time I had a salad from Subway at a meeting at work. (I am not too into Subway but that was where the powers that be decided to get lunch that day so it was free.) That’s why I make salads myself to take for lunch.

  9. It’s a plot to keep you from eating healthy. Rip you off on the “healthy” food so you’ll buy the crap, which I imagine they put something in to get you addicted so you keep coming back.

    I should be working now, but… well, you know.

  10. I’ve done crazier things in order to procrastinate!

    Though I have not entered a McD’s (except for at a highway rest area where there is no choice for a restroom) for more than 10 years. Unfortunately, despite the appearance of “healthy” things on their menu, their basic goal is to sell high volumes of cheaply produced food to young people.

    As an orthopedist I see too many obese youth. It is both sad and scary to know that this is the future of health in our country.
    ~HDJ

  11. Once, some people at a Taco Time really pissed me off. It wasn’t the money, I mean, it was seven dollars or something for crappy lunch for two. It was the service. I wrote to Taco Time of my aggravation and you know what? They refunded the cost of my meal. With a nice letter of apology and a check. And a coupon for 1/2 off my next visit to Taco Time, like that was going to happen, ever.

    You’d have to actually follow up and write the letter, which may be incompatible with napping and or procrastination.

  12. Also —
    There is another reason you did not want to stay there to do your work. The color scheme and the decor of the place are all carefully designed so as to move people OUT as quickly as possible.

  13. I procrastinate on housework and making phone calls. When I worked, I always jumped straight in.

  14. I rarely eat at McDonald’s because I’m lazy, and there’s a lot of other fast food restaurants that are closer. However, I do get really excited when they have the special 49 cent hamburgers on tax day. That’s awesome.

    Procrastination is a disability that I suffer from as well.

  15. Well that’s what you get for eating at McDonalds. The procrastination was probably your body unconcious self saying, Hmmm… maybe all this will make him stop coming here… 😉

  16. I can identify with so much here! Procrastination, first. Laziness and indecisiveness! Making regrettable restaurant choices out of laziness and indecisiveness! Also, I enjoy fruit. And walnuts.

  17. Non-Highlighted Heather

    January 16, 2007 at 8:49 am

    I know I’m going to be in the minority here but I actually like the Fruit and Walnut Salad at McD’s. When I’m out appraising, I can wind up in some pretty remote areas and a lot of the time the only food available is McD’s. Of course, it would be more economical for me just to throw my own apple in the car with me and head on out but I’m usually in such a rush, I’m lucky if I remember to grab my camera. It might be a little more money, but I have to say, the apples are always perfect and if you get a bite with apple, walnut, and yogurt, it’s actually pretty yummy.

  18. Heather — I’m glad someone said something good about McDonald’s. Aw, c’mon, we all know the place sucks and is making our kids fat, but so do a lot of things… such as watching TV. Actually, their regular salads are not terrible and they make a good cup of coffee. And I have too many fond childhood memories of eating their fries to truly hate the place. It’s like hating the first girl you kissed.

  19. I don’t eat out much but I used to take my kid to Micky D’s for the kids meals when they were little. I would never order food for myself but I would steal some of their fries and have a silo of diet coke (or a coffee). As for that salad, I would rather just eat the apple.
    I too would love to see your numbers. Math geek here.

  20. PsychoMom — OK, you got me! I didn’t mention the numbers because they weren’t as impressive as I hoped. If McDonald’s had to buy all the ingredients at Ralph’s Supermarket at then same price that I would (including the three-day sale on Delicious Apples), they would only make 30% profit. I apologize to my readers for not including that fact in the post. I was trying to hide it because I thought it undermined my argument about them making “huge” profits.

    However, if I truly want to find the answer to their profit-making on the Fruit and Walnut Salad, I need to learn HOW MUCH they pay for their fruits and walnuts. I’m sure they get a major discount for buying in bulk.

    Are there any “insiders” out there who would like to pass along this sensitive, top-secret information for the good of the general public who DEMANDS to know!  (I’m also looking for a new way to procrastinate today)

  21. Neil:

    I feel your pain. I first ordered the walnut salad in 2005 and it was big. Now it’s just a tease. I think you should have stuck a grape up each nostril and marched over to corporate headquarters, demanding to see the VP of Operations TOUT SWEET!

    Next time order the Big N’ Tasty. It’s a decent burger.

  22. Just imagine the profits McDonald’s reaps from me, your average mother of three, who is forced to purchase Happy Meals on a regular basis. I figure the toy costs them about $.03 per unit and the rest of the food, including packaging costs about $.57, so they are making a clear profit of $2.03 per Happy Meal. Sucks to be a member of the Kroc family!! Or is it Kronk, I forget…

  23. I’m sure they make huge profits off my silo of diet coke too. What I really hate is when the PTA sends home Micky D coupons for my kids to sell for fund raising. If Micky D really wanted to help the schools they would just give them the money and not prostitute the kids. Sorry, I found a soap box.

  24. Katie said the same thing about the one and only time she had that salad. Not a fan at all.

  25. When you finish with all that procrastination, you might seek some anger management classes. eep.

  26. Actually, that fruit and walnut salad is the only thing I like on their menu. I liked it better when it was bigger, but the snack size is just right for a snack.

  27. I am a professional “procrastinator” I’ve had many many years of practice. When products come out with the new version it’s always smaller and costs either the same or more and we always seem to put up with it. Go figure.

  28. Maybe they’re charging you extra for the procastination help. Nothing’s free in this world, you know.

  29. This blog is one of my favorite forms of procrastination. It’s like eating a salad from McD’s. There’s some substance there, but it still feels fun like fast food.

  30. All I can think of when I hear or read McDonald’s is Mark Knopfler’s song “Boom, like that” about Ray Kroc.

    i’m going to san bernardino
    ring-a-ding-ding
    milkshake mixers
    that’s my thing, now
    these guys bought
    a heap of my stuff
    and i gotta see a good thing
    sure enough, now
    or my name’s not kroc
    that’s kroc with a ‘k’
    like ‘crocodile’
    but not spelled that way, yeah
    it’s dog eat dog
    rat eat rat
    kroc-style
    boom, like that

  31. Michael — Reading blogs as procrastination? With internet access at McDonald’s, now you can do it both!

  32. Neil, I confess that the most disappointing thing about this entry is the backsliding you’ve exhibited since your epiphany on New Year’s Eve. What happened to The Neil Who Wasn’t Going to Cave in to Everyone? He caved in to some sullen McD’s counter help. Sigh.
    If you’re that easy then…Hey! Start leaving comments at the Dept, dammit!
    😉

  33. You’re absolutely right. I’ve already forgotten my resolution. So, screw you and that comment, buddy!

  34. There was not enough research to make this post a nice, elongated procrastination period. Next time can you please help me procrastinate some more and do research on the hash brown? How many potatoes do you think goes into a hash brown?

  35. There is a Wikipedia entry for the fruit and walnut salad at McDonald’s?? This is shocking.

  36. The double cheeseburger on the dollar menu is like a whore that knows me on a first-name basis.

  37. Next time go to Five Guys Burgers & Fries. The small fry alone will feed 4 people. The food is basic and delicious!

  38. You really need to watch Super Size Me.

  39. But Neil, what was the answer? How much profit do they make? Are you saving it for the Washington Post? Because we don’t get that in Australia!

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