Last week, I went to the doctor for a check up for the first time in years. Come to find out, I have high cholesterol. Weirdly high, considering my diet is basically plant based, except for when I’m eating steak. Or cheeseburgers. Or fried chicken. Which isn’t that often.
So how does an almost 40-year-old man who could certainly afford to lose a few pounds before cresting that mid-life hill in a few months cope with this dire health information? By volunteering to stuff 50 greasy hunks of fried fast food chicken chunks in his face hole, that’s how. What’s that the kids are saying? Hashtag YOLO?
I should confess before we begin that I don’t eat fast food. Except, in a pinch, Dunkin’ Donuts, but I’m from New England, so that doesn’t count. Even my doctor agrees. It’s like when Eskimos club baby whales and eat them; it’s totally okay, because it’s part of their heritage. But if you or I did it (assuming you are not an indigenous person of Alaska), we would be monsters.
So beyond the occasional Dunkin’ egg loaf sandwich, fast food is off my radar and has been for over a decade. Partly because I have a 12-year-old daughter I want to lead in making good life choices, and partly because, let’s face it, for the most part that shit is gross. Pink slime? No, thank you. I'd much rather eat perfectly good real deep fried chicken, or a burger that is bigger and juicier than a cork cocktail coaster. And why would I want to eat my food out of a bag, or in a tile dining room that smells like bathroom disinfectant?
That said, there was a time when I harbored a deep love for the Chicken McNugget. What’s not to love, if you disregard, or are ignorant to, the creation process? (Yes, I know they are allegedly no longer sculpted from pink slime or soilent green or whatever, but does anyone really believe that?) I was certain going in to this that we could rekindle our old flame easily. I mean, it’s just fried meat, right? Easy.
In case you haven’t figured it out (did you read the headline?) I volunteered to eat a 50 pack of McDonalds Chicken Nuggets. This is what I get for thinking I was funny on Twitter and volunteering with a snarky comment. Joke’s on me, though, ‘cause our health editor didn’t catch my sarcasm, or she did and just doesn’t like me much, and here we are. [Editor’s note: I like James plenty, but I don’t know what this “sarcasm” is. A challenge is a challenge!]
There are 190 calories per serving–which the food wizards of McDonaldland have determined is four pieces–of Chicken McNuggets. This means that in the course of this experiment I will be consuming 12.5 servings, or 2,375 calories, not including dipping sauces. Since that’s just 375 more calories than your average grown human should be eating in a day, this is not only going to be delicious, but convenient, since I now won’t have to waste any more time eating today. I look forward to being very productive, provided my gall bladder doesn’t do this.
Here we go.
When arranged on a plate, 50 McNuggets don’t look quite so foreboding as the weight of the bag they come in, which, I admit, gave me pause. I mean, it’s a lot of food, but square footage-wise, it’s basically a medium pan pizza. The first few go down not only easily, but deliciously.
I can see why, were you not to know better, this 50 pack would be an easy choice for a family of 12. Can you imagine feeding that many mouths? Of course, I’m also not naïve—I know that the average purchaser of this sodium bomb is probably bringing it to a friend’s house so they can do bong rips and play World of Warcraft, or home to a family of just three or four. Of note: 34.9 percent of Americans are obese. I’m not saying that has anything to do with ready access to a $10 satchel of saturated fat, but it’s worth mentioning.
I’m about 10 nuggets deep, and it’s going smoothly. Almost too smoothly. This may be more of a sprint than a marathon, because once my body realizes what I’m doing to it, things could go sideways fast.
The first ingredient of the sweet n’ sour sauce is high fructose corn syrup, which explains why, as lubricants go, it’s a poor choice for coercing rapidly cooling, and thus rubberizing, processed poultry patties down your throat.
A pattern is emerging: There are basically three shapes to McNuggets. Circle, square, and what is almost a chicken thigh, or boot shape. The boot-shaped ones have better texture, but that could be all in my head.
Twenty down. It’s been about 25 minutes. Things are getting harder. Well, not harder. More like distended. My computer keyboard may never recover from the sliming it’s receiving.
At 27 to go, my enthusiasm is beginning to wane. My dog’s however, begging next to my leg, shows no sign of diminishing. I draw from her energy. We’re in this together, even though I would never subject her, a canine who casually gulps down dead bird carcasses and old feces, to this quality of food. Food that, according to this, 1 percent of our world’s population eats every day. That’s 70,000,000 humans.
Okay, halfway there. Are colors dimmer? I think they are. I keep belching, thunderous explosions that draw the ire of my wife, who wonders why I can’t control myself. I can only shrug greasily and look ashamed.
Twenty-one to go.
I’m no longer lustily throwing whole nuggets in my mouth, but instead taking delicate bites. The chicken flavoring is more intense this way, which is good, as it overwhelms the strange “McDonalds” flavor and smell that permeates.
At this stage of cooling and consumption, the nuggets are room temperature. The circular ones are now tastier and less rubbery than the others. This is purely subjective.
I have to poop. Not in a passive, observational way. This is a sudden, clenching need. Something wants out. It may be my decency. I’m not letting it. It feels too much like quitting, or giving up a part of myself. All these digestive enzymes may be making me hallucinate, or maybe the salt and fat overload is draining my endorphins dry.
Fourteen to go.
I’m very, very concerned for my gall bladder. I promise to treat it nice for the rest of time, if it will just bear with me here.
Ten. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel. It’s a golden light, though, and it may just be something reflecting off the fried surface of a nugget. My burps leave the faintest taste of fish in my mouth, and I wonder if that’s something in the nuggets, or if the fry-o-later was shared too much with a Filet-O-Fish.
Nine. Eight. Seven. Six. Five.
There is no more chicken flavor. My taste buds have blocked it out, or been overcome. There is only a subtle greasy fry taste, like licking an old piece of brown bag that once held onion rings. I am convinced that I can feel acne forming around my mouth, but my wife assures me I’m being dramatic and this is unlikely. “Time will tell,” I respond dourly.
How does one escape their own body? I need to get out. What even was the point of this exercise? Conspiracy theories abound—maybe it’s hazing, or maybe they just wanted to test the new guy’s dedication. [Editor’s note: He volunteered!] No one would every really buy this quantity and eat it themselves, would they?
Sadly, I think that they would. I am not, however, one such person. I’m not designed for this. Why does my chest hurt?
One. This is it. Nugget zero. I want so much to stuff the whole thing in my mouth and just swallow it down, put an end to this, but I can’t muster the energy. We’re backing up in the esophagus now, so it’s small bites, strategically swallowed, a high-calorie Tetris. My wife takes a photo, and I find I can’t make eye contact, which she thinks is hilarious.
Post challenge, I did what any athlete would after completing an Olympian feat–I took a long, hot shower. Very hot. Very long. I kept that water running over my belly, just standing there and thinking about what I had done, heating up my insides as much as possible to aid in digestion and keep the McMass from re-congealing back to its original consistency within my innards.
I don’t feel so good. In fact, I literally feel green. Like the color. I had thought that was just a creative liberty taken by cartoonists, but no. It is a thing. Why the hell did I subject myself to this again?
There is a tradition of human guinea pig pieces in the world of journalism. Morgan Spurlock, of course, in Super Size Me. Chuck Klosterman, who ate only McNuggets for seven straight days. Gawker’s Caity Weaver did an amazing job chronicling her 14-hour attempt at conquering TGI Fridays’ endless mozzarella sticks. Our willingness to torture ourselves for the sake of entertaining and informing readers is well documented. But they all had a point to make, or a hypothesis to see through.
I have none of this.
I could say that “I did this so you wouldn’t have to,” but would you really even consider sitting down to a steaming 50-piece-pile of chopped and formed chicken chunks? Maybe you would, but if that were the case I doubt you’re getting much more than offended out of this saga.
C’mon, it’s obvious.
Are you not entertained?
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go do 200,000,000 jumping jacks.