Thursday, June 26, 2008

BM: It's What's For Dinner.

Could somebody please explain to me why Boston Market still exists? The name tips you off to the problem: I mean, when everything they serve is brown, you'd think they'd be a little more careful with their initials. You go there and you stand in line and you choose between three or four entrees and a couple sides. It’s been sitting around for a while so you pick whatever looks closest to its original color and they plop half a spoonful onto a plate and staring at it pitifully you carry it over to an empty, food-crusted table.

And you think, isn’t this what it’s like to eat in PRISON?

These are the main reasons I don’t want to go to jail: I don’t want to eat old, discolored food, I don’t want angry people making minimum wage to portion it out, and I don’t want to eat a meal where the largest component is cornbread. To be fair I guess there are a couple differences -- in prison you get nicer utensils, and you get enough food to survive. After a couple Boston Market meals even Jared from Subway would be overturning tables and jabbing the help with a sharpened spork.

Take their “family meal for four,” for instance: you get four sides, four cornbread, and one and a quarter pounds of turkey. Now, this works out to a little over four ounces of turkey per person. In fact, this is so little turkey that you could dump it into a liter of Coca-Cola and still call it TURKEY-FREE. If my folks had served this for dinner I’ve have been angrier than when I came home from summer camp and found all my belongings piled up on the lawn.

People must buy this stuff, though, which strikes me as pretty remarkable. Because if your average turkey is sixteen pounds and each person gets a quarter-pound, they’re feeding sixty-four people with just one bird. You start wondering why they don’t get more press -- I mean, Jesus fed fewer people with all those loaves and fishes, and he got massive coverage in the Bible.

They’re just as stingy with their sides. For instance, they think one serving of corn is like a spoonful. I feel like telling them, hey, corn is not an endangered species. It grows on stalks, from the ground. Yet with a scoop of mashed potatoes and an inch-thick slice of meat loaf this is what they call an “individual meal,” and it costs $5.99. You could wander around Costco, get more food for free, and the people smile when they serve it to you. Set the Boston Market “meal” out on the street and pigeons wouldn’t fight over it. They’d waddle over, glance at it and waddle back. “Maybe later,” they’d think. “I saw some strawberry Bubblicious over by the porno newsrack.”

If you’re still hungry when it’s time for dessert, you’re going home hungry. I’ve been to Thanksgiving for like thirty years straight and let me tell you, a pie serves six people, tops. Whenever I serve one I make the first cut down the middle and immediately some wiseguy yells, “I WANT THE PIECE ON THE LEFT!” Make more than two more cuts across it and people are going to start throwing ashtrays. At Boston Market, though, a pie serves like eighty. They slice them with laser beams because when they use a knive nine or ten servings stick to the blade. Try serving a piece this thin at home and people will laugh at you, right before they start looking for blunt objects. “Uncle Fred, you’ve already had a half-inch of pie. Leave a quarter-inch for Aunt Edna.”

Yet somehow Boston Market can be stingy and people keep coming back. I think it’s because they keep apologizing, over and over. Like six months after they opened the first billboards appeared: “We aren’t such stingy bastards any more!” You go in and give them another chance but now they’re doling out the mashed potatoes with a teaspoon. “Fooled ya!” they say. Their stock plummets again and there's more apologizing. These days the commercials promote “the new Boston Market.” And you walk in and now they’re measuring the turkey with calipers, on a gram scale.

There’s a guy down the street from me who’s freer with his merchandise, and roast turkey doesn’t have a street value of fourteen thousand dollars an ounce. I tell him the story and he stares at me in disbelief. “One pie? Eighty people?” The calculator in his head starts going, and dollar signs appear where his eyeballs used to be. He calls somebody on his cellphone and as I wander off he starts to talk excitedly about Colombian farmers planting vast fields of cherry trees, and unmarked airplanes dropping baked pastry shells over abandoned airfields.

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