After reaching the ripe old age of thirty and accidentally setting fire to Jack in the Box fast food trash in the passenger footwell of my Volkswagen Beetle, I decided it was time to change habits. I could easily have gotten neater, or taken the time to get out of the car and eat, quit smoking in the car, or any number of smaller tweaks to life's routine, but for me, change is typically more dramatic; I stopped eating at Jack in the Box altogether. Cold turkey. This was a huge decision and twenty years before their 1993 E. Coli outbreak that sent 783 people to the hospital, four of whom died, and 178 that were left with permanent brain and kidney failures from eating a hamburger. No, this was on my own and without provocation other than a small fire in my car. I had begun to form a relationship with the food I ate and how I felt afterwards, motivating me to move up the chain from the worst fast food to something higher end, though still served in a foil wrapper over a counter. I had left Jack in the Box first, Carl's and McDonald's second, and soon became fond of two new items instead: higher-end cheeseburgers and barbecued chicken, Santa Maria style. The barbecue's namesake, a town where PS Audio and my children were born, was known for tri-tip beef and chicken, seared over oak, and eaten with pinquito beans. I was its newest convert. Lunch, Paul style, was as unvaried as it gets: a cheeseburger, Coke and fries at a place Jimmy Buffet might have called Paradise. The cheeseburger was piled high with lettuce, extra tomato, extra pickles, fresh cut onion, and dripping with a mayonnaise, ketchup and relish sauce (called Thousand Island). Lunch couldn't come soon enough. After perhaps six months of this diet I began noticing the meal sitting uncomfortably in my gut for several hours. The more I noticed it, the more uncomfortable it became. I had read somewhere that it takes hours (sometimes days) for beef to digest, that it was one of the most difficult meats to breakdown and hard on the system in ways science was beginning to figure out. In fact, I had read that this type of animal protein should be ingested no more than once a week. I wasn't sure if these cautionary words were propaganda foisted on an unsuspecting public by the growing chicken industry - like Chick-Fil-a cows happy you're eating mor' chicken - but there seemed a direct correlation that had to be investigated, and so I set out to do a classic A/B test, something quite familiar to me as an audio designer. Terri had pointed out that as a percentage, the beef patty was only 20% of the burger, while the vegetables, cheese, bread and orange goo the other 80%. "Why don't you just try it for a week without the meat?" She suggested. The idea was, at first, repulsive. A hamburger without meat? Seriously? Like listening to a stereo system with one speaker, or taking a leash for a walk? It just didn't add up; but her logic was impeccable. "How can I help you?" Asked the counter clerk. "I'll have a double cheeseburger, extra pickles and tomatoes, onion and sauce, hold the meat." "Huh?" The manager had to be called over. "You want a cheeseburger without the meat?" It took arm twisting, kitchen upset, assurances that disgruntled cooks wouldn't spit on the food, but I got my melted cheese sandwich. My first surprise was I hardly noticed the missing meat. The burger tasted like, well, a cheese burger. I was full, it was lip smacking good, and most important - my stomach felt good afterwards. Hmmmm. The journey continues tomorrow.
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