A full-size, colorful billboard on Highway 17 in the heart of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, depicts a juicy, slightly charred, still-steaming porterhouse steak with several slices already cut to show you that it’s medium rare — not overcooked.
The billboard has been there for a decade, but each time I pass the advertisement for New York Prime Steakhouse, my mouth waters and suddenly I weigh a pound or two more than I did a few seconds earlier.
I’ve actually never eaten there, although I once walked up to the restaurant’s door. The menu posted in a window by the door told me newspaper reporters can’t afford to eat there. The food advertisement, however, succeeded in arousing my interest to try that perfect-looking steak.
One day, when I get rich (the same day I suddenly become tall, dark and handsome), I plan to dine there.
Billboard advertisements and food commercials can be fattening for folks with a vivid imagination that activates an insatiable appetite. Maybe that’s my problem.
When I see food ads and commercials, I almost can taste that sizzling steak, juicy burger, piping-hot pizza or smoky barbecue they’re trying to sell me with nothing more than a visual image and a few well-chosen words.
In fact, the words themselves conjure up more images of deliciousness my imagination promises me are awaiting me on the other side of that ad. I find myself planning a visit to that restaurant or buying that particular food.
Surely, my wife and I are not the only ones who keep a list of restaurants that Food Network’s Guy Fieri has visited within two states’ drive. His show, “Diner, Drive-ins and Dives,” is a marketing tool for these restaurants.
It’s how we discovered Blackwater Grill and Southern Soul BBQ on St. Simons Island and a number of other restaurants in Florida, North and South Carolina and Tennessee. Fortunately, all the restaurants Fieri’s show has drawn us to won’t break your wallet.
They’re family joints for the most part. Those that are bars and those that specialize in raw fish, lengua (boiled cow tongue) or mutton won’t miss my business. Even the best advertising slogans or color pictures can’t make sushi look like it’s good for anything other than bait used for catching, cleaning and cooking my own fish.
For the last couple weeks, you may have noticed an increase in snack-food commercials as corporate America tried to get us excited about this year’s Super Bowl. To be honest though, I haven’t watched a Super Bowl since pro football went to Sundays. Sunday is a day of worship, and I don’t worship sports.
Nonetheless, I take advantage of grocery stores’ Super Bowl sales for tater chips, corn chips, salsa, frozen pizza, Buffalo wings and other junk food aimed at a target audience who does watch the big game and consumes these snacks in a single afternoon.
Most of this stuff can be stored for months in the freezer or if left unopened in the pantry, so you don’t have to eat it all at once. I’ve found, though, as soon as I open a bag of kettle-cooked tater chips I won’t stop until the bag is empty. Ditto for a bag of Tyson’s Wings of Fire.
Sometimes, when I’m grilling hot dogs and hamburgers, I heat up these spicy wings on the top rack of my grill where they absorb the smoke from the charcoal.
It’s futile to expect our commercialized society to take down those tempting billboard ads or restrict those tantalizing food commercials. To fight my battle of the bulge, I’ll have to learn to control my imagination so I can control my appetite.
Email Murray at email@example.com.