The Unhappy Meal

March 9, 2021 • 8:45 am

Here is an idea, which is mine.  I may have mentioned it before.  Since 1979, McDonald’s has sold what they call “happy meals“, which are supposed to cheer up kids. They consist of a main item, like a hamburger or chicken nuggets, a side item, like apple slices or fries (“chips” to you Brits), and a drink, which can be milk or juice. There is also a toy on the side, often connected with some promotion like a movie. (See the latest menu here.)

But not all kids are well behaved! At times when your child is acting up or difficult to handle, you might take them to McDonald’s for what I call “The Unhappy Meal”, designed to disappoint the child rather than cheer him up.  These don’t exist, of course, but it gives me the opportunity to think of what would be the McDonald’s meal that would most put off a tyke.

Here’s one suggestion:

Main course: The McLiver Sandwich®: Fried liver and onions on a bun with Secret Sauce

Side course:  Brussels Sprouts with garlic dipping sauce

Drink: Fresh kale juice

The toy: A folded-up Saturday New York Times crossword puzzle with a miniature pencil

You are welcome to suggest others.

The McLiver sandwich

62 thoughts on “The Unhappy Meal

  1. Anything with eggplant. Maybe an eggplant and okra stew? No end of tears there, even if you’re an adult…

  2. As a French, this looks delicious to me. Loved the liver sandwiches and brussell sprouts as a kid too.
    Hard pass on the kale juice and crosswords though…

    If I can find some good liver this might be integrated into a weekend mea (my wife will not be convinced though).

  3. Escargots à la Bourguignonne (snails in their shell in a butter-garlic sauce, right out of the oven!). Children don’t go for it.

    1. I was working on a Big Mac Escargot cooked in garlic sauce, served on a sourdough bun with a side of Brussel Sprouts. The kids will love it.

    2. I must contest- from the time kiddo was two or three, this was his favorite. To be fair, it was the only bug-like thing he could have at the restaurant.

    3. Funny you should say that. My niece tried escargot straight from the shell when she was five years old, I believe, and I did when I was six. We were/are both very adventurous eaters, though! She’s been eating sushi since she was at least eight years old, and I don’t just mean rolls, but sashimi, caviar, and other things one might expect to gross out kids.

  4. Your ‘Unhappy Meal’ would have backfired in my home. That sounds like something my daughters would have (happily) ordered at Wolfie’s or Rascal House in Miami Beach.

    1. Take away the liver and it’s my kids as well. I made potatoes, Brussels sprouts and whole garlic roasted in olive oil with rosemary. I said “These best part of a this is that it has whole roasted garlic cloves” and both my kids nodded and drooled. It was one of my proudest memories of parenting.

      1. Yummy roasted garlic. My daughter, who became vegetarian in her teens, used to ask for seconds on broccoli when she was a toddler. My son, otoh, would sat almost anything – except veggies.

    1. I’ve had both Surströmming and Hákarl (see #18 below). Hákarl isn’t too bad – kind of ‘blue cheese with a nose of ammonia’, but the Surströmming needs to be accompanied by onions and aquavit (LOTS of aquavit). BTW the safe way to open a can of Surströmming is by submerging it (and the can opener) in a bucket of water – otherwise a properly aged can may spray its aromatic goodness all over you.

      1. This must be where the phrase “hot Carl” comes from.

        (Don’t look it up. Or do, if you’re feeling very adventurous, willing to be utterly devastated by the crazy shit people devise, and nobody will be checking your search history)

    1. If you could ever get something fresh that had not spent the past half hour or more under the hot light bulb.

  5. They consist of a main item, like a hamburger or chicken nuggets, a side item, like apple slices or fries (“chips” to you Brits), …

    Thanks to American cultural imperialism, we also call them “fries” when ordering at a McDonalds, though we call them “chips” in a fish & chips shop.

    Though, McDonalds-style fries and chip-shop chips are rather a different product anyhow.

    1. The thin ones have been called fries in England for a long time. Chips are the chunkier ones. In the States, all are French fries (or freedom fries).

      The general consensus is that they were invented in Belgium, albeit in the French-speaking part. Traditionally they are deep fried in beef fat.

  6. I side with your dad on the great liver-and-onions divide, Jerry. Love it. Although not so much as a child.

    Chicken livers are great, too, sautéed with mushrooms, topped with a sour-cream sauce. And chopped liver ain’t chopped liver, either.

    1. I am reminded of the great Erma Bombeck line, that she was not interested in eating anything that expands in your mouth when you bite into it.

      L

  7. McDonalds is working to support a plant-based burger, and I definitely support them for that. US meat factories/slaughterhouses are unsanitary, dangerous, and cruel to animals and the human workers who are expected to perform like machines, without even breaks.

    My village has not even been able to support a local food store in the last 25 years, much less any restaurants. (We keep trying.) McD is responding to public pressure to at least offer a healthier meatless alternative. There was a time when they didn’t even serve salads.

  8. How about a McRibbit, side of prunes, with split pea dipping sauce.

    Though honestly, if your kid likes McD’s and they’re misbehaving, the easiest way to deal with that is just to not take them there until they behave.

    Knock on wood, I’ve never had to do that for my kid. While he enjoys the occasional stop for McNuggets, he’s not a burger fan and prefers the apple slices to the french fries anyway. So McD’s has never been a huge draw/treat for him in the first place. He gets it on road trips if we have forgotten to pack or have eaten all our sandwiches, but it’s pretty much nothing except road food for us.

  9. So I saw the picture and was like, yay! A PCC(E) food post! Because that sandwich looks tasty. I didn’t like kiddo try McDonald’s until he was, I think, seven. Now we save it as a kind of traveling food, but I consider it garbage. Luckily his palate is broad, he loves whole fish pretty much every vegetable, escargot, you name it. but my greatest parenting failure of all time is that the kid hates cheese. Except for fresh mozzarella. I don’t know where I went wrong.

  10. I can’t top that Jerry. You had me mortified at “The McLiver Sandwich.” I’m one of those who simply can not stand liver. It make my blood run cold and my entire system rejects it. Even in it’s “mildest” forms like foi gras, if there is even the most distant taste of that metallic liver it literally ruins much of a meal for me.

  11. Hákarl (Icelandic pronunciation: ​[ˈhauːkʰartl̥]; an abbreviation of kæstur hákarl, referred to as fermented shark in English) is a national dish of Iceland consisting of a Greenland shark or other sleeper shark which has been cured with a particular fermentation process and hung to dry for four to five months.It has a strong ammonia-rich smell and fishy taste, making hákarl an acquired taste

    On season two’s Iceland episode of Travel Channel’s Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern, Andrew Zimmern described the smell as reminding him of “some of the most horrific things I’ve ever breathed in my life,” but said it tasted much better than it smelled. He described the taste as “sweet, nutty and only faintly fishy.” Nonetheless, he did note of fermented shark: “That’s hardcore. That’s serious food. You don’t want to mess with that. That’s not for beginners.”

    It’s probably not good for kids, but adults who misbehave are also not uncommon.

    I hope the Icelanders will forgive me for this example.

  12. The Big Mac is to hamburgers what the Leafs are to hockey: verging on greatness, but always disappointing. Sigh.

    1. Once, for me, the big mac did live up to greatness. I was living in India at the time and McDonald’s and Burger King hadn’t yet made their way there. It had been ages since I had a burger, I was probably 11. My friend’s dad got a couple big Macs in Singapore and brought them back in a small cooler for us. Sure, the buns were soggy and the lettuce was sad, but it was the best thing I’d ever tasted in the moment.

      1. If you ever go to Texas, and I don’t know why you would, try Whataburger. They do pretty good hamburgers.

        1. Well, I’m kind of keen (plague permitting) on trying to head down there for the 2024 eclipse – so I may just have an opportunity to try! As far as chain burgers I like, I try to adjust my expectations, but I was a bit disappointed by In-n-Out. I like our regional Burgerville here in the PNW. They have tasty seasonal options and use Tillamook cheese.

          1. If you’re ever in my general neighborhood, stop buy and I’ll fix you one of the best burgers you’ve ever had. Just give about 20 minutes notice so I can run to the grocery store. And maybe bring some good beer.

    2. I dunno. A freshly made Big Mac is a thing of beauty!

      It seems some franchises make the food consistently, others do not. There’s a popular McDonald’s on the way to my son’s summer camp that we always stop at and the Big Macs and other items there have never failed to be super fresh, whereas in our city it’s hit and miss and more often disappointing.

      1. My wife and I once ate at a McDonalds somewhere in the greater Tokyo area (she was tired of Japanese cuisine, I was not). It was, no holds bar, the best McDonalds food I’ve ever had. No contest. All of the food looked better than in the promotional pictures, and tasted even better. They must do things completely differently than McDonalds in the US. They certainly brought their national compulsion for perfection to bear.

    3. I’ve never liked the idea that people from other countries might think that the Big Mac is considered a good hamburger by Americans even though for many of my fellow citizens it is. Good and even great hamburgers are homemade patties from choice ground beef cooked over a charcoal grill with melted cheese, preferably cheddar served between medium rare and medium. The burger itself should weigh a half pound or more and it should be suitably thick. No pressing down or cutting it open – that’s how the juice is lost and we all want a juicy burger. My choice is to put it on a brioche bun that is quickly browned over the same charcoal with tomato, sautéed sweet onions and a little mayo, but there is a very wide choice of acceptable toppings that includes catsup, mustard, raw onion, lettuce, etc.

      The Big Mac is made with meat that tastes a bit substandard to me to put it politely. The flavor is covered up by adding lettuce, sauce, onion, cheese, pickles on a sesame seed bun. I’m trying to remember that old Big Mac song that lists the ingredients. It starts, “Two all beef patties lettuce sauce…” I can’t remember all the words.

  13. Hákarl (Icelandic pronunciation: ​[ˈhauːkʰartl̥]; an abbreviation of kæstur hákarl, referred to as fermented shark in English) is a national dish of Iceland consisting of a Greenland shark or other sleeper shark which has been cured with a particular fermentation process and hung to dry for four to five months.It has a strong ammonia-rich smell and fishy taste, making hákarl an acquired taste

    On season two’s Iceland episode of Travel Channel’s Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern, Andrew Zimmern described the smell as reminding him of “some of the most horrific things I’ve ever breathed in my life,” but said it tasted much better than it smelled. He described the taste as “sweet, nutty and only faintly fishy.” Nonetheless, he did note of fermented shark: “That’s hardcore. That’s serious food. You don’t want to mess with that. That’s not for beginners.”

  14. I will say that the Happy Meal was a brilliant move on McDonald’s part. I’ve never, ever known a kid who doesn’t want one. Even the kids whose parents won’t let them have McDonald’s want one! Sheer marketing genius.

  15. How about if they open the box and out springs a bunch of set mouse traps? No food, just the traps.

  16. Although never partial to fried liver, when he was a kid my Down Syndrome son Aaron
    was very fond of paté of various kinds. Nowadays, when we plan our regular Sunday dinner together, I always tease him with the suggestion of squid with broccoli, to which he cheerfully demurs. Funny, because he discovered that he really liked the breaded, sautéed squid at a neighborhood Greek restaurant I used to take him to occasionally. As for McDonald’s, we long ago stopped buying anything there.

  17. I would order a bunch of that liver sandwich.

    If you want to gross out kids, try sardines and raw onions, and maybe top everything with Ghost peppers (that’d be kinda mean though, so maybe top stuff with slimy okra).

    1. Once at a family reunion my older brother challenged by then 6 (or so) year old son to eat a spoonful of tabasco sauce for $50. He did it, without breaking a sweat. My brother’s wife found out and gave him an earful, and made sure he paid the $50.

      1. That’s one tough kid! Do you think he’s now acquired the taste for hot sauce?

        I remember as a kid going to a curried goat feast hosted by a distant relative, and the kids were offered just the kiddie version. Uh-uh. Of course, I didn’t want *that*, just the good stuff with the Scotch Bonnet peppers swimming in it. It was excellent. I did grow up eating spicy foods. Have had to cut back in my dotage.

        1. He definitely likes spidey food but he’s not a heat addict.

          I love a good curried goat. Ghost peppers are really tasty, and there are ways to get the flavor without much heat, but Holy Smokes, they are hot straight up.

  18. I say most of these suggestions, although good as far as they go, get an incomplete. Choosing a toy that goes along with the meal is the hard part. So take these back to your desks and work on them until they are complete. Imagine, adult students turning in just the easy part.

    I’ve got the same problem. I’ll turn in my finished work when it’s finished if I finish it. Repeat “finish” and it sounds funny in a Scandinavian way.

  19. How about a peanut-butter and liverwurst sandwich with a side of candy-corn and to drink, some onion juice. 🤢

  20. This also sounds like a reasonable game to play with the children on long car journeys; describe the meal you’d serve someone who has just…

    1. … said “are we there yet” once too often.
      On which subject, has Iceland’s volcanic plook burst yet? Bit of a pickup this evening. Pick up in tremor (a tracer for fluid movement in the sub-surface) too. (Graph from sensors at Grindavikm a few km SW of the activity centre.
      “Are we there yet?”

  21. Celery – nice and fresh – for solids. Wrapped in lettuce, for the little monster who has outdone itself.
    For those who haven’t grown up with soured-milk products, lovely “fresh” кефир.

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