August 30, 2006
I notice that David Lat (i.e., Article III Groupie) has linked to my post on clerking on his new blog, Above the Law. So I should probably take the opportunity to say that I probably overstated my argument to make a point in that post: I'm not quite as down on us clerks as I sound, and it's fairly clear that the best explanation is that which people gave in the comments and by email : that judges find newly graduated clerks valuable for a number of reasons. But I still think that clerking is a remarkable institution, and to my knowledge, not extant in the same form in many other countries. Indeed, most everyone else draws a distinct line in between the professions of judge and lawyer. In that context, the idea of hiring young lawyers who intend to practice transactional law as judicial helpers is almost unbelievable. And yet, here we are.
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In December of 2004 (!), I wrote about Au Bon Pain's 800 calories grilled chicken sandwich. Since then, I've kept track of similarly deceptive foods. The list is distressingly long, and has turned me into an even more annoying than usual dining companion.
The latest entry into this growing book of shame is Chili's Old Timer Burger, which I quite enjoy on those occasions when I'm compelled to eat at Chili's. You anticipate calories and fat when you order a burger, so it's no real surprise to discover that it has a hefty 800 calories and 44 grams of fat. Those are far higher numbers than one would expect for the relevant amount of meat, though, especially on the fat side, so I went off to look for an explanation.
The Chili's web site, helpfully, lists nutrition information. It turns out that the the half pound slab of meat contains, as I thought, a mere 360 calories and 25 grams of fat. At that, it's a perfectly respectable lunch. In burger form, you'd expect maybe 600 calories and 31 fat grams, sans cheese and mayo.
So where do the rest of the fat and calories come from? Not any special sauce or cheese, because Chili's lists the burger without those things. Nope. The actual source of all the rest of the nutritive value is the bun. A 460 calorie, 20 gram of fat, butter dipped bun. A bun that is marginally worse for you than a Mcdonald's single quarter pounder, which itself has a full bun. (420 cal, 18 fat grams).
Now, as a sort of amateur baker, I know that hamburger buns usually have some shortening - that's how you get such a soft crumb. But that should only yield a few grams of fat. In real terms, that means that our friends at Chili's have managed to slather something substantially over a tablespoon of butter onto plain old bread. In doing so, they've turned a good lunch into a mess, especially when fries are factored in.
In other words, it's really no wonder that the Atkins worked, however soul crushing it was. In general, it cut calories, because bread is caloric. And in this case, it would have saved you from one of the more surprising pieces of bread I've ever seen.
In any case, I've tried emailing and calling Chilis to find out what exactly is happening to the bread in the kitchen. If anyone's worked there, or somewhere similar, email me and let me know.
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