Phil Kadner, a veteran columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times, has landed in the middle of a food fight after using his column to drop a truth bomb: “A hamburger does not have cheese.”
Kadner’s column was pegged to a recent class-action lawsuit against McDonald’s filed by two Florida customers who allege that the fast-food giant forces customers to pay for cheese on its Quarter Pounder, even if they don’t want it, because the sandwich costs the same with or without cheese.
When the lawsuit was filed — for $5 million — some people on social media poked fun at its frivolity. But Kadner said he applauds the complainants’ “courage,” and he used his column to launch into a screed about his lifelong battle against cheese on hamburgers.
“People who want cheese on their hamburgers should be forced to say, ‘I want a cheeseburger.’ I should not be required to say, ‘I want a hamburger, no cheese,’ or even answer a question such as, ‘Do you want cheese on your hamburger?’ ” Kadner wrote. “If I wanted cheese I would have ordered a cheeseburger, which is what you call a hamburger with cheese on it.”
The rest of the column was filled with anecdotes about the indignities Kadner has suffered when he visits restaurants that charge the same price for a cheeseburger and a hamburger, and how he is forced to argue about his bill when he orders his burger without cheese.
“Through the years I have been charged for cheese I did not order on fish sandwiches, turkey sandwiches, salads. I could be a millionaire if I got all my money back for cheese I never received,” he wrote.
Kadner’s column has been making the rounds on Twitter for a couple of reasons:
1. There are a lot of people who agree with him, either because they don’t like or can’t eat cheese, or they’re pedantic about the English language.
2. The column is a delightfully cranky rant about something pretty small, in the grand scheme of things.
To people who fall in the latter camp, Kadner is another excuse to rehash that “Simpsons” “Old Man Yells at Cloud” meme.
Kadner’s rant triggered servers, though. They know customers like him. They dread customers like him.
They fired back at Kadner, noting that the servers he berates don’t set the prices. Critics also called him self-centered and challenged him, if he really cares about the issue of paying for something you don’t get, to speak out on other examples. For instance, under Kadner’s rules, shouldn’t the person who doesn’t want croutons on their salad also get a refund? What about the patron who asks the bartender to leave the olive out of a martini? Or the diner who asks the waitress to hold the pickles?
If allowances were made for every personal subtraction, these folks argue, it would open a pricing can of worms that would cause chaos at the cashier stand and result in immense menus that list the price of every single ingredient in each dish.
But to anti-cheeseburger activists — and they are legion — Kadner is a crusader. They do not want their meat tainted with Cheddar or Gouda. And they are fed up with having to pay the same as the cheese-eaters.
People like Kadner think there’s a right way and a wrong way to make a hamburger. And the wrong way is to add cheese.