KYLE Smith, writing for the New York Post, asked: What's "the cheapest, most nutritious and bountiful food that has ever existed in human history?"
Hint: It has 390 calories and contains 23 g — or half of a daily serving — of protein, plus 7% of the daily fiber recommendation, 20% daily calcium and so on. Give up? It's a McDouble burger from McDonald's.
Did he really discover "the greatest food in human history?"
Not quite. Giving due credit, he wrote that the comment was made on the "Freakonomics" blog by "economics writer Stephen Dubner and professor Steven Levitt, who co-wrote the million-selling books on the hidden side of everything."
Now, the Post is not the great gray lady of New York newspapers; it's more of a gossip and celebrity rag with some sports thrown in for good measure. It pretends to be a daily version of People magazine spiced up with some of the creatively written headlines you might expect from the National Enquirer.
Smith's day job is film critic who dabbles in other areas for the Sunday edition.
So, let's not take his comment too seriously.
He does make a good point, often overlooked by those faux farmer editorialists from the New York Times. Smith argues that the challenge isn't to feed the very rich; it's to feed the very poor, and we're talking about the citizens of the U.S. as well as the world.
New York Times foodie-in-chief Nicholas Kristof, for instance, likes to refer to his Oregon farming background to establish his "street cred" when he sobs about the sorry state of the American diet.
His comments are usually made with a reference to the wining and dining he did the night before at one of New York's most exclusive restaurants with some of the city's wealthiest food freaks.
They all agree, while washing down their pricey little meal with a $250 bottle of wine, that the status of the American diet is in a sad state.
Smith rightly says feeding the masses is a bit more important than placing another 4 oz., $90 filet mignon on the plate of one of New York's elite.
So, all snobbery about fast food/junk food aside, that $1 McDouble found at more than 14,000 neighborhood McDonald's does sound like one of the best deals ever in the annals of human history.
When your first order of the day is just to stave off starvation, price and availability are the only driving forces. Getting an all-beef patty, a dairy product and some fresh produce for a buck is a helluva deal.
Later on, when you've made your first million, you can consider a trip to Whole Foods — more commonly referred to as Whole Paycheck — for some fresh organic food or dinner at some nearby four-star restaurant where the tip alone could feed an American family of four for a week or a third-world family for at least a month.
Let's be honest, if your station in life allows you to sneer at a dollar burger, you can always pop for the Douche Burger — for just $666 at 666 Burger in New York.
It's a mouth-watering, Kobe beef patty wrapped in gold leaf and served with foie gras, caviar, lobster, truffles, imported aged Gruyere cheese melted with champagne steam, a kopi luwak barbeque sauce and Himalayan rock salt.
For a few more extravagant burger choices, visit http://most-expensive.com/burgers-world.
If nothing looks good, at least you know you can hit a drive-thru and order off the dollar menu.
*Chuck Jolley is president of Jolley & Associates, a marketing and public relations firm that concentrates on the food industry.