DJ Hostettler
Cultural Zero

Inhumanity and The Denny’s Fried Cheese Melt

By - Nov 12th, 2010 04:00 am
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We are currently in a golden age of gratuitously fucked-up food. Starting with the halcyon days of the Hardee’s Monster Burger in the mid-1990s (which later led to Hardee’s current “We’re in last place, so screw it—everything on the menu is a Monster Burger” period), America’s suppliers of garbage cuisine have been continually lowering the bar in their demonic game of Mechanically Separated Limbo.

Sure, for every KFC Famous Bowl, there is something revelatory at the other end of the spectrum (Chicago’s Kuma’s Corner makes the greatest heavy metal-themed gourmet burgers around, while Hot Doug’s down the street has elevated encased meats to high art).

But our nation’s grease peddlers, having found themselves in a gastrointestinal hole of their own making, have decided to try the Ron Johnson method of escape—they keep digging.

I was sure we’d hit rock bottom when KFC unveiled the Double Down, a bastardly meatwich that conjures images in my head of Uncle Sam flipping off a starving Ethiopian while biting the head off an eagle coated in Shake ‘n Bake. Seriously, why do we keep coming up with this shit? I suspect that maybe it’s a source of backward national pride; sure, we may be in a recession, but America’s proud sense of entrepreneurial innovation lives on…in our attempts to kill ourselves with junk food. USA! USA!

As it turns out, though, we had farther to dig, because this past summer, Denny’s unveiled the Fried Cheese Melt—“fried mozzarella sticks and melted American cheese grilled between two slices of sourdough bread, served with French fries and a side of marinara sauce for $4.”

Fig.1: Recession? What recession?

This is why the rest of the world hates us. While children starve in our own backyard, we don’t honor them by taking care of ourselves and eating well—hell no, we come up with new combinations of fried glop to slide down our gullets while we blow them raspberries and fart in their general direction (unless all that cheese has backed us up).

Mind you, I’m not exactly complaining, as even I had to admit that, god dammit, this one looked…well…AWESOME. And hey, if there’s one thing that my semi-monthly trips to Taco Bell indicate, it’s that I’m Part of the Problem. So, the Fried Cheese Melt? I had to try this thing. For science. For Cultural Zero.

I assembled a crack team of foolhardy idiots loyal pals, Kate and the Wizard, and hopped in the car, zoomed down I-94 South to the airport, past Faith Builders International Ministries (south Milwaukee’s other source of excessive fried cheese, having produced Danny Gokey, zing), and pulled into the Denny’s parking lot. Any lingering fear that the Fried Cheese Melt was only offered at participating restaurants was swiftly assuaged when we walked through the door and were greeted with a big ol’ display trumpeting the new $2 and $4 value items, including tonight’s fabled mcguffin:

Fig.2: A participating restaurant!

While we didn’t need menus, we nonetheless tore into them with relish, at which point my cohort Kate noticed something amusing:

Fig.3: Mmmm…smothered cheese fries

Huh. So four mozzarella sticks surrounded by cheese and sourdough bread, with fries and dippin’ sauce for dippin’ = $4. Mozzarella sticks by themselves (ostensibly with sauce but minus the other bits) = $5.59. OK, maybe there are more than four, but we all know that the family restaurants have been skimping on appetizers more and more over the years. Hell, Perkins’ sampler platter used to have chicken strips, mozzarella sticks, onion rings, and fried mushrooms; now it’s like, I dunno, mozz sticks, a couple rings, and French fries. The HELL, people.

Anyway. Three orders of Fried Cheese Melts and one bonus order of Denny’s gingerbread Pancake Puppies™(essentially balls of fried pancake dough served with a dish of syrup), please.

Fig.4: See, my theory is that the heart is a muscle, so it appreciates the opportunity to work harder

Here, laid bare, was evidence of America’s self-destructive hubris: the gross excess emblematic of an empire about to fall. Or, just a huge fried glob of cheese. Whatever. It was pretty. Goddamn. Tasty.

Fig.5: A dude on my Facebook thought these were chicken strips. That would have been the healthier option

The American cheese didn’t occupy every bit of negative space between the bread that wasn’t occupied by fried, breaded mozzarella, as the (possibly plastic model in the) photograph indicated (oh, man, it just occurred to me that someone probably got paid to make a plastic model of a Fried Cheese Melt for photography purposes. Who says all the good jobs are gone?) (Actually, it was probably made in China, so never mind). But that didn’t matter; those first couple gooey bites were true trailer-park bliss. One thing to consider when ordering your own—wolf that shit down post haste, as everyone knows that mozzarella sticks aren’t as good once they’ve cooled. This is doubly true when it’s buried in shimmering sourdough.

We left Denny’s with our stomachs full and food comas rapidly approaching. Kate was nearly out of it by the time we dropped her off; the Wizard’s plans to work on his mp3 blog were summarily tabled to the next day. He was barely able to type out the Facebook update “CHEESE ADVENTURE SAPPED MY ENERGY” before surely collapsing. Me? I bravely pounded out about 400 words of this post before the Real Wisconsin (I hope?) rock in my gut forced me to bed.

I awoke several times in the night, finally responding to my alarm clock in the AM with a borderline feverish, dizzy disposition. I felt malnourished, as if the Fried Cheese Melt absorbed nutrients from my body and held them hostage in an indigestible cheese log slowly snaking its way through my intestines. I’d tell you I’ll update you on whether that’s true, but I’ve probably said too much already and ruined your dinner. If I did, I apologize, and humbly suggest a family restaurant down by the airport that will rectify that for you. The sight of 895 calories and 34 grams of fat is sure to bring that appetite back.

Aren’t you glad you live in the only country on Earth that would come up with something this insane—the greatest country on Earth? Double down on your health (KFC Double Down: a paltry 540 calories) with the Denny’s Fried Cheese Melt.

America—fuck yeah.

0 thoughts on “Cultural Zero: Inhumanity and The Denny’s Fried Cheese Melt”

  1. Anonymous says:

    loved the article. it makes me want a fried cheese melt in the same way SuperSize Me gave me an uncontrollable urge to mow down 3 big mac’s after I left the theatre. so awful, so arrogantly american. it disgusts me that this is society’s response to the recession.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Great story! I laughed out loud more than once. Seriously.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Yum to the writing. Eeyeewww to the “food.”

  4. Anonymous says:

    i would find these article a lot more compelling if the writer didn’t constantly offer a critique and then back away from it by declaring himself “part of the problem.”
    weak. and really undermines your authority as a figure of critique.
    can you take a stand on something? without always hedging your bets?

  5. Anonymous says:

    They are also the entry through which very many people enter
    their homes at the end of long days. With the garage door closed, place the ladder
    below the motor and find the limit switches. Search the safe for some more credits
    before you go.

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