TASTE
02/07/2013 10:16 am ET Updated Sep 30, 2013

McDonald's Hash Brown: My Secret Guilty Pleasure

McDonald's

Someone once told me that there's no such thing as a guilty pleasure. That person has clearly never stared down the barrel of two McDonald's hash browns.

Don't freak out. I know I'm a food editor. I know that my job would indicate that I'm not supposed to eat those things and am supposed to do everything in my power to get you to avoid them. This is certainly not an endorsement of McDonald's, their business practices or their food. To be honest, I eat there very rarely. I generally stick to food with ingredients I can pronounce. I am inherently distrustful of any food that comes to me through a drive-thru window. With that being said, nothing terrifies me more than how quickly I can eat two piping hot, golden hash browns in all their greasy glory.

How could this have happened? Well, I am a pretty enthusiastically potato-oriented person to begin with. I love them, believe they have hang-over-curing properties and have spent every year I've lived in New York searching for a place that makes real hash browns, not homefries. The McDonald's hash brown is, of course, a far cry from the grated, browned in butter potatoes that I've been seeking, but it's something that is ultimately comforting when you just need a fried potato.

What kind of magic holds those perfectly diced pieces of potato together? I know the answer; magic = a chemical compound designed by food scientists to hold potatoes together. I don't feel great about it, but when I eat one, it makes me happy. I can't tell you the number of times I've crossed paths with a McDonald's employee thusly:

Me: Hi. I'd like two orders of hash browns and a large orange juice, please.
McDonald's Employee: Okay, what else?
Me: That's all.
McDonald's Employee: Two hash browns?
Me: Yes, ma'am. Thank you.
McDonald's Employee: Oookay.

The crispy outside and tender inside of this particular fast food breakfast item will always be like a siren song to me. I've embraced it. So what's kept me from a full-on, artery-clogging, saturated-fat-collecting, McDonald's hash brown binge? I've made myself a very simple rule: moderation. I'll pick up a few at one of the myriad McDonald's lining the highway on a road trip. Or maybe in an airport. Relegating this guilty pleasure to special occasions keeps it just that: a guilty pleasure rather than a habit. It's also helped me decide that as a grown up person who can eat whatever they want, but is very careful to eat things they feel good about, veering off that course occasionally will not revoke my street cred as a person who loves food. At the end of it all, maybe there are only guilty pleasures when you feel guilty.

What's your favorite guilty (or not guilty) pleasure? Let us know in the comments!

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