Paying tribute to fat instead of fighting it

August 05, 2002|By Kevin Cowherd

IT WAS AT a McDonald's in Towson that I took a savage bite of a Quarter Pounder With Cheese, raised the remaining chunk of bun and gray beef high in the air and shouted: "To the great Caesar Barber!"

Frankly, the response was not exactly deafening.

The man to my left continued to gnaw on his chicken sandwich and stare straight ahead, as if people were always thrusting food to the heavens and shouting toasts in his presence.

At the table to my right, two little kids and their mom stared at me, but they didn't seem ready to toast Caesar Barber, either.

So I tried again. This time I took one of my super-sized fries, raked it through a puddle of ketchup and held it high over my head like a greasy, salty Sword of Excalibur.

"To Caesar Barber!" I cried. "May there always be such men of courage and vision in our lives!"

Again, no response. Nada, zip, zilch.

The man with the chicken sandwich, he must have had a hearing problem, or maybe he was loaded on Paxil or something, because he didn't even flinch.

At the other table, the kids and the mom continued to stare, and then the mom whispered something and drew the kids closer to her before looking around for somewhere else to sit.

Oh, it was sad to see this kind of indifference when the great Caesar Barber's name was invoked.

Caesar Barber, of course, is the 5-foot-10, 270-pound maintenance worker from New York who recently filed a class-action suit against McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's and KFC, claiming the fast-food chains made him big and fat and sick.

Barber - God, I love this man! - said he used to eat at their restaurants four or five times a week.

He said all the greasy, salty food affected his health - two heart attacks and diabetes, for starters. And he said the chains did not inform him about the ingredients in their food, or that if you ate too much of it, you'd get big and fat and sick.

"They never explained to me what I was eating," he said on ABC's Good Morning America.

To be honest, when he uttered these immortal words, I expected the interviewer to take a clipboard, whack Barber over the head as hard as possible, and shout: "What are you, stupid?! Everyone in the world knows you shouldn't eat too much of that stuff!"

But Caesar Barber's massive head somehow remained un-whacked throughout the interview, and this is when I began to see the true genius of the man.

Here he was filing the first broad-based lawsuit that claimed the fast-food chains aid and abet obesity, something everyone has known forever.

Only Barber was saying, in effect, that he was too dumb to know this!

Oh, you talk about a visionary.

Sure, you can talk about your Thomas Jeffersons, your Lincolns, your Gandhis and Einsteins and Nelson Mandelas.

Me, I'd put Mr. Caesar Barber of the Bronx, New York, right up there with any of them.

Of course, at the McDonald's where I was, there was a chart on one wall, right next to the counter, that explained the nutritional content of everything they served.

The chart was the size of a highway billboard; you couldn`t miss it unless you had cataracts the size of the Alps.

So in the middle of my meal, I wandered over to the chart to see exactly what kind of healthy fare I was cramming into my big, fat face.

The Quarter Pounder With Cheese, thick as a doorstop, that baby contained a whopping 530 calories and 30 grams of fat.

The super-sized fries - because what's the point of those sissy regular-sized fries, anyway? - were 540 calories and 26 grams of fat.

The tub o' Coke I was slamming back - 36 fluid ounces of teeth-rotting, tic-inducing sugar - tacked on another 310 calories.

All told, that added up to ... doing the math here, gimme a sec ... 1,380 calories.

Not to mention 56 grams of oozing fat.

But gazing up at the numbers, I felt completely at peace, for I knew that the great Caesar Barber was pioneering a new strategy in health care.

Hey, if I eat too much junk food and don't get enough exercise and keel over some day, so what?

On my way to the hospital, I'll simply instruct the ambulance driver to swing by the nearest McDonald's or Burger King or Wendy's or KFC.

When we get there, I'll ask that the ambulance doors be flung open, and that the restaurant's manager be summoned.

And when the poor wretch arrives, I'll lift myself wearily from my stretcher, point a beefy finger at him and in a wheezy, labored voice, I'll say: "You ... you did this to me. And now you`re going to pay."

After all, it's the American way.

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