Glad you're out of the hospital. I always enjoyed your columns. I for one hope Fry Girl sticks around, as long as it doesn't kill you. Don't go the way of Booze Pig- my other favorite column.
By Kathleen Vanesian
By Amy Silverman
By Robrt L. Pela
By Jim Louvau
By Kathleen Vanesian
By Benjamin Leatherman
By New Times
By Becky Bartkowski
"Well, we've got the results from your tests."
I'm in the examining room at my doctor's office. It's been three weeks that I've been out of the hospital, two weeks since I swallowed a camera to take thousands of pictures of my intestines — a Fantastic Voyage of all guts, no glory, and possible blockage — and a month of my stomach feeling nauseated or refusing me the rights to good posture.
The doctor riffles through pages in my file and fires off some phrases that could be medical terminology or a passage from Cicero's De Re Publica. I ask him to dumb it down.
Safe 'n' scrumptious
• The Chuckbox Burgers: One of the few joints in the Valley that serves up its burgers from a mesquite charcoal grill. 'Nuff said. (202 E. University Dr., Tempe, 480-968-4712, thechuckbox.com)
• Hana Dog and Lava Tots, from Maui Dog: Fresh, homemade toppings and a unique combination of spicy and sweet make Maui Dog a unique tropical treat. I think I just wrote their first jingle. (3538 E. Indian School Rd., 602-464-3063, mauidogrocks.com)
• Green Chili Burro con Frijoles, from Rito's: Once you find this legendary joint, grab the napkins and hang on; this fiery burro's burstin' with flavor. (907 N. 14th St., 602-262-9842)
• The Gyro Picado from George's Famous Gyros: Like a kick to the Greek groin, this spicy delight is pure gyro euphoria. (7620 E. McKellips Rd., Scottsdale, 480-874-1354, myspace.com/gfgyros)
• The Jerk Chicken Sandwich, from Chaka Chaka: A huge hoagie jam-packed with flavorful ingredients including a fried banana slice — and at six bucks, it's the best deal in town. (1009 S. 7th St., 602-561-3110, eatchakachaka.com)
• Culver's Custard: Creamy, eggy, and made fresh daily, this better-than-ice cream treat out of Wisconsin makes a Wendy's Frosty taste like chilled chalk chunks. (culvers.com)
Hazardous to your health
• KFC's Double Down: Please don't make me go back to that scary place. (kfc.com)
• Chocolate-covered scorpion: You can douse it with chocolate sauce, but it's still a predatory arthropod someone found in a shoe, and the taste makes you wish you'd been stung instead. (azstatefair.com)
• Taco Bell's Cantina Tacos: These street tacos should not be eaten, but placed on a street and run over repeatedly. (tacobell.com)
• The Whataburger 5-3-1: A square salt lick disguised as a burger and a $5 price equals a numerical nightmare that adds up to zero. (whataburger.com)
• Burger King's Fire-Grilled Ribs: The box said, "Straight From the Grill." I would have accepted "Straight from Hell" or "Left on the Grill." Dehydrated and DOA. (bk.com)
"It was one of two strains of a virus caused by bad food. One linked directly to chicken." He looks up from behind his glasses and asks, "Can you think where you might have picked it up from?"
What could I say? That for almost a year I've been eating fast food for a living? That I've willingly thrown my past good eating habits out the drive-thru window so that I can consume levels of fat, sodium, and cholesterol far beyond the recommended daily allowance even for a Kodiak bear? That I troll the Internet and cruise city streets looking for the next fast-food fix like some sort of junk food junkie? That I've developed relationships with local patty-pushers who seek my advice while being reviled by others who deem my greasy daily grind shameful, at best?
That I'm fucking Fry Girl?
At the hospital, I learned that VIP treatment comes with a disastrous diagnosis. In my case, they thought I had appendicitis. Some folks are just lucky, I guess.
It wasn't that, thankfully. It was just my yet-to-be-diagnosed stomach virus playing a painful game of make-believe. A pseudo-appendicitis. Kind of like a false pregnancy but without the ice cream and distended gut. It never occurred to me to blame my current eating habits — my daily consumption of greasy eats coming from a collection of kitchens, some of questionable cleanliness and food-safety protocol. I chalked it up to stress, bad genes, a Gypsy curse, Sex and the City 2 — anything but fast food.
I never thought I was in danger. I used my three-day hospital stay to catch up on some reading and bad TV. Save for my husband — whom I texted, "In the emergency room," when he sent me a message seeking my whereabouts — few people, including my family, were the wiser.
And on my last day at the hospital, after being on a strict liquid diet and needing to consume a full meal before the doc would spring me, what did I order? A cheeseburger and fries. And they were terrible.
Now, Fry Girl wasn't always Fry Girl. For two years prior to fast food, I was Princess Pescatarian. What's a pescatarian? No, it's not a Zodiac sign, a World of Warcraft creature, or someone who excels at being a pain in the ass (although many may agree with the latter); it's a person whose diet consists of fish, vegetables, fruit, nuts, grains, beans, eggs, and dairy. Good eatin' and for the most part, fast-food free. Yay, go me.
But before the band strikes up, know that my vegetable and fish fetish, although the most healthful, wasn't the first in a long line of food-related obsessions spanning my childhood and spilling over into my adult years. In no particular order they include:
• Six months of Faygo Red Pop, two to six glasses a day.
• Three years of canned whole smoked mussels, one to two times a week.
• Cinnamon Pop-Tarts once a day for eight months (this one has since resurfaced).
• Ketchup on white bread, one to three times a week (ongoing).
Crazy? Maybe. A little obsessive/compulsive? You bet. I blame my childhood, TV, and the Catholics.
As the elder of two kids being raised by a single mom, my jeans were Toughskins, home alone wasn't yet a movie, and the fast food we saw advertised on television manifested itself as a treat, not a dietary staple, which only made my sister and me crave it all the more — especially the holy grail of hamburgerdom, the McDonald's Birthday Party, where it was rumored there was a merry-go-round, you could eat all the cheeseburgers you wanted, and they roped off a special section of the restaurant so you could puke on the floor if you had to. Bliss.
It wasn't to be. Dollars were better spent on Hamburger Helper, Jolly Green Giant, and Shake 'n Bake, a product I thought was the basis for all cooking. And whenever my sister and I found a fast-food favorite, our Catholic upbringing made us feel guilty for coveting it, took it away for 40 days during Lent, or made us say grace to it. "Bless us O Lord, for these most heavenly McNuggets."
Sacrifice is a bitch, especially when you're an 8-year-old Catholic kid and there's a Fry Girl inside you who wants to ride the McDonald's merry-go-round.