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The most iconic image of the original Independence Day is that of a giant spaceship hovering over the White House, filling it with energy until it explodes.
Today, I will recreate that iconic image using Denny’s food and my colon.
In honor of our nation’s birthday, and the release of the long-awaited Independence Day: Resurgence, Denny’s has unveiled a very special “Red, White and Bacon Menu,” named after the colors on our great nation’s flag — or possibly the multihued vomit I’ll be fighting to keep down after I eat this entire thing in one ill-advised sitting. Much like the people of Earth in the Independence Day sequel, I am about to experience a dangerous resurgence. (Or maybe “regurgence” is a better word for what’s about to happen here.)
Denny’s is one of the great innovators of this kind of movie tie-in menu. They invented all kinds of weird food for The Hobbit trilogy, and last year they cranked out four different entrées themed around Fox’s disastrous Fantastic Four reboot. (The menu was actually much more enjoyable than the movie.) But that thing only featured four main items, plus a smoothie and a dessert. The Independence Day: Resurgence menu runs no less than nine items. And seven of them (including a sundae) feature bacon. There’s a Honey Jalapeño Bacon Slam; a Honey Jalapeño Bacon Sriracha Burger; Bacon Cheddar Tots; a “loaded” skillet with bacon, steak and potatoes; two different Grand Slams; and a Triple Bacon Sampler. If I get that far, it will be followed promptly by the Triple Bypass Sampler. Much like the film itself, Denny’s Independence Day: Resurgence menu will pummel customers into submission with its overwhelming size.
Four entrées was a lot of food, but it was doable. Five entrées, a side dish, and a dessert, all of them larded with bacon, would be too much pork and fat for the most grizzled professional eater. And I’m not a professional eater. I’m just a masochist who gets his kicks punishing his body with kitchy movie-related food items. So let’s be realistic here: My task here is essentially impossible.
But hey: They said the same thing when those pesky aliens invaded Earth and blew up the Empire State Building! Just when things looked hopeless, the heroes snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. Jeff Goldblum willing, I will do the same, only instead of victory, I’ll probably be pulling bacon from my jaws. Because I am fighting for my right to live! To exist! And should I win the day, the Second of June will no longer be known as just another day on the calendar, but as the day the world declared in one voice, “We will not go quietly into the night! We will not vanish without a fight! We’re going to live on! We’re going to survive! Today, we celebrate the Independence Day: Resurgence menu!
Pass the bacon. And the Pepto-Bismol.
The tagline for Independence Day: Resurgence is: “We had twenty years to prepare. So did they.”
I should have fasted at least that long to prepare for this meal. I’m already getting full.
I started with the main event: The Red, White, and Blue Slam. Here’s the description from the Denny’s menu:
Two buttermilk pancakes made with blueberries, topped with sliced fresh strawberries, cream cheese icing and whipped cream. Served with two eggs cooked to order, hash browns, and two strips of bacon or two sausage links.
And here it is in front of me:
It’s served on two plates instead of one (and I got sausage instead of bacon because this is my last chance to not eat bacon for about 6 hours) but the actual food item does closely resemble the picture on the menu. And the pancakes with icing are delicious. (Remind me I said this later when I taste them again.) Ironically there’s one healthy thing on these plates (a pile of strawberries) and I can’t eat them; I’m not supposed to eat seeds. Oh well. Who wants to waste room on fruit anyway?
The red, white, and blue theme is very appropriate for the movie, although I’m a little confused by the “ESD - Earth Space Defense” logo on the menu right below the picture of the Slam. Are we really supposed to believe fighter pilots eat icing-covered pancakes, eggs, sausage, and hash browns right before they get into their spaceships and go fight aliens in zero Gs? This sounds like the last thing a fighter pilot should sample before a big space battle.
This course went down pretty easy. We’re having fun! But there’s like six more courses to go. This is like the point in the movie where the spaceships arrive at Earth and everyone looks up at them in awe and wonder and is so excited. It’s all “They look so cool! This is so great!” and then it’s “OH GOD EVERY CELL OF MY BODY IS ON FIRE AND I’M EXPLODING FROM THE INSIDE OUT.” Anyway, on to course two!
You know how they say everything is better with bacon? What about bacon? Is bacon better with bacon? And then additional bacon? Because that is essentially the Triple Bacon Sampler in a nutshell. It is bacon and bacon and bacon. Here’s the Denny’s menu description:
Three bacon flavors that’ll make your favorite meal even more special. Featuring two strips of our new premium, thick-cut honey jalapeño bacon, two strips of hickory-smoked bacon, and two strips of turkey bacon. Served with two eggs cooked to order, hash browns and choice of bread.
My God, it’s fully of bacon. (Okay, wrong sci-fi movie. But cut me some slack, I’m so full I’m sweating icing.)
(You’ll note I passed on the choice of bread. I hope you’ll forgive me.)
Well, it’s certainly got a lot of bacon. More bacon than any rational person could ever want. That honey jalapeño bacon is mighty spicy, too; perhaps it was chosen to suggest the unholy fire the aliens bring to our planet as they scour it with their energy beams. Or maybe Bill Pullman really enjoys spicy food. Who knows? I’m not sure the theming here is as precise as it was on the Fantastic Four menu. What does a crapton of bacon have to do with Independence Day: Resurgence? Other than both are bigger and more excessive than they have any right to be.
At least you guys are doing a great job of finding Independence Day clips to tweet at me that relate to my ongoing mental and emotional breakdown:
Get back over here, colon. You’re not going anywhere.
When Denny’s announced they were doing a whole menu connected to Independence Day: Resurgence, I got so many tweets from people telling me I had to eat it and write about it.
Just know that if I survive this ordeal, I will find every single one of you, and destroy you.
On to our next item, the “Loaded Bacon, Steak & Potato Skillet.” Every word of that description terrifies me. The full details from the menu:
Bacon tops everything. Diced bacon and tender prime rib with seasoned red-skinned potatoes and broccoli served on a sizzlin’ hot skillet. Topped with shredded Cheddar cheese and Pepper Jack queso.
And the picture:
Does anyone hear that really loud ringing? No? Just me? All right, let’s move on then.
After two very solid dishes, this is my least favorite item so far. Or maybe that’s the cream-cheese icing and 42 servings of bacon still sitting in my stomach talking. The potatoes are squishy when they should be crispy, but maybe that’s inevitable when you drown a dish in cheese sauce. Despite the “bacon tops everything” promise (or threat) there’s actually very little bacon in this thing, although at this point in the day that comes as an extreme relief.
I’m sitting here racking my brain trying to find some kind of explanation for including this loaded skillet in an Independence Day menu. It’s shaped like a flying saucer? It’s a giant food bomb, much like the bombs the aliens drop on New York and London? I’ve got it: This is the Liam Hemsworth of the Denny’s Independence Day: Resurgence menu: Mushy, bland, starchy, and totally forgettable.
Some more great tweets about my ID4-2 binge:
The Denny’s menu conveniently includes calorie counts for every item. They’re presented in a range because your particular version of a dish could contain more or fewer calories depending on whether you get white toast or wheat or whatever. Using just the low estimates, so far I have consumed 2490 calories.
The menu also says, in very small print at the bottom, that “2000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice, but calorie needs vary.”
So what you’re saying is some people need more than 2000 calories? Awesome! I can keep eating!
Disaster movies are all about the folly of man. They tell stories about our inherent helplessness in the face of God’s wrath or nature’s fury. We build bigger boats and they capsize; we engineer skyscrapers of unparalleled height and they catch on fire. If all else fails there’s an earthquake or flood or volcanic eruption or, yes, an alien invasion. Disaster movies spread a message of preparedness; something bad is going to happen, they caution, so you better be ready. In a sense, even if the movie is terrible Independence Day: Resurgence only strengthens that idea from the first movie. Even in victory, there is still danger. Something is always out there, waiting to destroy us.
Like this goddamn Denny’s menu.
The next item up for consumption is the Honey Jalapeño Bacon Sriracha Burger. These aliens can’t get enough f---ing bacon. The description:
A Sriracha seasoned, hand-pressed 100% beef patty topped with Cheddar cheese, two strips of our new premium, thick-cut honey jalapeño bacon, creamy Sriracha sauce, jalapeños, lettuce tomato, red onions and pickes. Served on our new brioche bun with a side of our wavy-cut French fries.
And here it is on the table:
I’m finally starting to see how the menu is themed to Independence Day: Resurgence. This isn’t food; it’s a bodily invasion. Everything on this menu is so aggressive; you ingest these items and they go to work burning your mouth, drying your throat, weakening your stomach lining, and loosening your bowels. And if you survive the first wave of attack, that’s when the long game begins, fattening your waist line and decreasing your cardiovascular health. Like the humans in Resurgence, we never stood a chance.
The Thing Burger was (and yes I know I sound crazy when I write this, I swear I’m not high on bacon right now) the highlight of the Fantastic Four menu. This burger is a mess. Some bites are totally bland. Others, the ones with the “creamy Sriracha sauce,” are unpleasantly hot. I want to run screaming from this thing like Vivica A. Fox running through that tunnel to get away from the alien fireball.
Perhaps not coincidentally, while I was cruising through most of the menu, my progress hit a crawl right around bite four of this burger. I just feel ... unwell. This tweet resonates very strongly right now.
I should note that while I was waiting for my burger, I had one of the drinks on the Independence Day menu, the Berry Blue Lemonade. It was delicious; nicely balanced between tangy and sweet. The perfect way to wash down 86 strips of bacon in three hours. In general, the sweeter stuff has been a lot better than the savory stuff today. But there’s a question on everyone’s minds right now:
Not by a long shot. Ugh, but I’m so full. If only there was someone around to give me a pep talk. To inspire me to carry on the fight even at this, my darkest hour.
Yes! I can do it! We can do it! USA! USA! DENNY'S DENNY'S!
Today, the bad guys won.
I couldn’t do it. After eggs, pancakes (covered in icing), hash browns, sausage, three kinds of bacon, more hash browns, more eggs, a skillet full of steak, bacon, potatoes, broccoli, and two kinds of cheese, and one of the grossest burgers of my life, I just couldn’t bring myself to order the final entrée on the menu, the Honey Jalapeño Bacon Slam. In my defense, I ate every single component of that dish in other courses, some multiple times. But this is an excuse. Reader, I failed you. I am ashamed.
Instead, I skipped straight to dessert. Dessert! That sounds good right now because I could really use a palate cleanser after all that meat. Oh wait, did I say a palate cleanser? Never mind, BECAUSE THE DESSERT HAS MEAT IN IT TOO. I give you: The Maple Bacon Sundae. Denny’s describes it as:
Two layers of premium vanilla ice cream, syrup, and bacon.
Only two layers? What am I, on a diet? C’mon!
Here’s a photo:
Yep, that’s some bacon on the top. There’s bacon throughout this thing. The bottom of the sundae is a giant pool of maple syrup and bacon. Bacon bacon bacon. Bacon. Bacon bacon. Bacon bacon bacon bacon, bacon bacon bacon bacon bacon bacon bacon bacon bacon bacon. Bacon; bacon bacon.
Whoops, sorry. Went into a pork-induced fugue state for a second. I’m back now!
The maple syrup and vanilla ice cream works pretty well, but at this point I’m done with bacon for maybe the rest of my life. I like crispy bacon, but this bacon is too crispy, its smoky flavor is too strong for the ice cream and the syrup. Then again, I ate the entire sundae after devouring four entrées in one sitting. So I guess it wasn’t too bad.
(Also, when I got the check, I ordered the other beverage on the Independence Day menu, the Lemon Berry Smoothie, which was also tasty. And I drank almost all of that too. So maybe I should have gotten that last Slam?)
A great man once said you can learn a lot about a movie through its tie-in food. (That great man was me, just now, in the article you are currently reading.) It’s true, though. A tie-in menu isn’t just an example of crass corporate cross-promotion. It’s a metatext about the movie itself, a window into how a film’s marketers want its audience to perceive their product.
So how does Fox want us to perceive Independence Day: Resurgence? On the basis of this menu, they want us to think it’s big. Like, insanely big. That’s blockbuster filmmaking in 2016. Size doesn’t just matter, it’s all that matters. You need to have the most superheroes, or the glowiest special effects, or in the case of ID:R, spaceships the size of the entire Atlantic Ocean. And while there’s no in-story reason for all that bacon, it does evoke ideas about the heartland and Americana. Bacon is as American as apple pie. Independence Day: Resurgence wants us to think it is too.
Still, I’d say this menu was a bit less cohesive than the Fantastic Four one, whose items were more varied, and more cleverly themed to the actual movie. This felt more like Denny’s accidentally bought too much bacon for this fiscal quarter and had to figure out a way to get rid of it. “Crap, how many tons do we have left? Well, hell, I don’t know; shove it in the dessert too!”
That feels like a metaphor for blockbuster movies circa 2016 too, when every film tries to top the competition with more, more, more. In the rush to please as many people as possible they throw in everything everyone might want to see, regardless of whether all the ingredients work together. And while what I did today was obscene and unhealthy, it’s not all that different than the way we all feel at the end of the summer, after the studios have shoved five months of the cinematic equivalent of bacon ice cream sundaes down our throats. In life and on screen, portion control matters. Too much of a good thing is not a good thing.
I really, really don’t.