Can You Tell Chicken Salad from...That Other Thing?
It is on like Donkey Kong! Don't get too crazy about this, kids, but Arby's has just unleashed a throw-down with Subway. I am so on this.
See, they are both promoting their seasonal chicken salad sandwiches. And now Arby's has an official "Chicken Salad Taste-off" on its website where you'll find, in addition to two chickens wearing boxing gloves, a link to a Facebook page where you can "like" their chicken salad sandwich and then get a free coupon for one. Wait. That's a little tricky. Actually, it's cheating. You have to "like" it before you can even taste it to see if you actually do, in fact, like it. (By the way, before you finish this article, can you please Facebook "like" it? Thanks.)
Against my better judgment I went ahead and "liked" it -- solely for the purpose of this post. Once on the site you actually do get to vote for either Subway or Arby's, but only after you allow them to access all your Facebook information. Arby's, do you think I'm that easy? I'm not arguing the point; I just don't appreciate the assumption.
I'm one step ahead of all this hoopla, though. I've already tried both. First, I tried Subway's Orchard Chicken Salad Sandwich on 9-grain wheat bread with tomato and spinach. The six-inch rings in at 370 calories, 8 grams of fat, 6 grams of fiber and a whopping 20 grams of protein, making it a quick, easy lunch (since Subway seems to be virtually everywhere). And even though it's healthy, it doesn't taste like punishment. I walked away feeling satisfied and not a bit gluttonous or tired-full.
Arby's chicken salad sandwich is a different story. Well, it also tastes good. Great, in fact. But, it's heinous to have the word "salad" in the title. It would be like giving Justin Beiber the middle name "Pure Talent."
I'm anxious to explain this rant on Arby's, but first we need to talk about the term "salad" and how it relates to these chicken "salad" sandwiches. According to An A-Z of Food and Drink by John Ayto: "Etymologically the key ingredient of salad, and the reason for getting its name, is the dressing. The Romans were enthusiastic eaters of salads...a simple selection of raw vegetables...and they always used a dressing of some sort: oil, vinegar, and often brine."
Oh, I get it. So, it's the dressing! See, that tedious history lesson just totally illustrated a point: If a food has a dressing, then it's a salad. And since mayo is sometimes used as "salad dressing," anything you slather it with becomes "salad." Pea salad, macaroni salad, potato salad -- they all have one common ingredient: mayo! Forget fresh veggies with a little olive oil and vinegar. Technically, you can make a salad with anything plus mayo. I'm slowly connecting the dots. Mayo is the miracle maker of salads.
Here's what I don't get though, why did we allow this? The reason salads were created was for nutrition -- even medicinal purposes. And fortunately, we're evolved enough to know that mayo is not good for us. So, who the heck deemed this excessively fattening, raw-egg based stuff the salad miracle maker? Oh, I did. OK.
I can't believe I'm writing about evolution and Arby's, but the point is that...I forget my point. No, wait, here it is. Usually when one orders something with the word "salad" in the name, they're intending on a healthy meal. So, is labeling a mayo-based creation as a "salad" straight-up bamboozlement?
Let's role-play to make this all a bit more authentic. Say you took your mom to Arby's for Mother's Day (since you clipped a coupon). And when in Rome, you wear a toga, so you ordered their new Angus Triple Cheese Bacon Sandwich. Always aware of her girly figure, Mom politely asked for the Market Fresh Chicken and Pecan Salad Sandwich, and although you were a little peeved at wasting your coupon on a "salad" sandwich, it was Mother's Day, so you relented.
Turns out, the joke was on her. That hot mess bacon Angus cheese thing you ordered had fewer calories than her salad sandwich -- 660 calories versus 860, respectively.
Here is a list of a few other things that also have fewer calories then Arby's Market Fresh Chicken and Pecan Salad Sandwich at 860 calories: • Burger King's Whopper (670 calories) • McDonald's Big Mac (540) * Wendy's Baconator (630) • Jack in the Box's Sourdough Jack (664) and All American Jack (838)
What happened here? I think disillusionment and default happened. Arby's is trying to disillusion us all with a healthy sandwich and it's only by default of the mayo that this thing even has the word salad in its name.
To be fair, Arby's motto is "It's Good Mood Food." They don't have a thin guy who lost 245 pounds as their spokesman nor do they want one. Although in their commercial, when they deem the chicken salad sandwich as "not too heavy, and not too light -- just right," it is a bit of a stretch. I guess the Angus Triple Bacon Cheese is light...and they consider "just right" to be 44 grams of fat in one sandwich.
Funny thing, I ate three of these before I even bothered to check the nutrition information. Like Cousin Eddie said about the dried-out turkey, "It is guh-ud." Illusions of a salad aside, free brings a certain "can't lose" quality to it. And this time you actually do get to be the judge. Get out there and vote people!
Get the Dining Newsletter
The week's top local food news and events, plus interviews with chefs and restaurant owners, dining tips, and a peek at our print review.