You’ve grown up on McDonald’s and for a time you enjoyed it. You might even be grateful for it because McDonald’s came along and freely gave you burgers and fries when you were starving. But these days you are curious and thoughtful about the quality of the food. You ask if there are any other types of food on the menu? You want to know what ingredients really go into the beef patties? What’s the nutritional quality of its products? Who is making money out of the franchise? How did McDonald’s come to be? You may have even watched Supersize Me!
Recently you’ve noticed that while some people are told they are welcome at McDonald’s, because of a birth condition they aren’t allowed to eat anything. You also notice that there are no women in management. They get to be cashiers and cleaners but they can never be managers or owners. You ask to see the CEO, and in a meeting, you tell him that you don’t think it’s fair. He says to you, ‘You’ve been watching food documentaries and listening to food podcasts again haven’t you? You need to stop that, and read our menus, watch our commercials, and pray about their truthfulness and you’ll find your way back to the light only McDonald’s can provide’.
Then you find that there are progressive-McDonald’s groups on-line and your concerns aren’t just your own. You get so excited about this. It feels like a validation and you hope that the people at your local McDonalds will finally take your concerns seriously. But when you start talking about it at the restaurant you notice that friends who you’ve shared Big Macs with for years are now avoiding you. And then you get pulled aside by management who warn you ever so politely that they might have to consider putting you on cheeseburgers only for a while because you are upsetting the other patrons
So the alternatives are that you stay at McDonald’s and go hungry, or you force feed yourself the food you no longer like, or you go elsewhere. So you start looking around to see what’s on other restaurant menus. But it makes you feel bad that you’ve left your family behind at McDonald’s. You go back and see them (you have to go back because they don’t want to go out and visit new restaurants and food trucks with you) only to find them still happily chowing down on all the food that you’ve come to find distasteful. They invite you to sit down with them and eat, and you do because they are so happy that you are there and you feel their love for you. But all of that love doesn’t make the food taste any better.
You find yourself discussing all of your McDonald’s issues with your spouse who says,
‘Stay with me at McDonald’s. You are right – there are problems. It’s soulless. It used to be better when we could bring our own food along and share it with each other. Since it’s become a franchise it’s not as satisfying any more, and there are so many problems with it. You should draw attention to the issues! It’s good that you do. I support you!’
But she says all of this with a Big Mac in her mouth and you notice that she still weeps tears of joy when she reads the menu board.
Or perhaps you have a spouse who says:
‘You not liking McDonald’s anymore is a betrayal of my trust. Our marriage was premised on the fact that you would always like McDonald’s. Now that you don’t, we can no longer be together. I have to find someone who values McDonald’s as much as I do because I want McDonald’s for eternity.’
So you keep showing up at McDonald’s. You find some comfort in the familiarity and predictability of it all. Maybe you’ve found one or two things on the menu that you really like. But eventually, you find that even that isn’t enough to nourish you. You satisfy yourself that it makes your family happy that you are there. But soon you realise that you literally can’t eat another serving of McDonald’s fries that get served up with every meal. You know this because once you vomited over everyone in the restaurant and it was embarrassing, it disgusted the other patrons, and it left a terrible smell in the restaurant.
So one day you look around and it becomes obvious that you are the only one in McDonald’s not eating. Occasionally someone comes up to you and says, ‘Thanks for raising that great point about the Chicken Nuggets, I’ve never really liked them either’ and for a moment you feel some solidarity. But you notice next time you see them, they are eating… Chicken Nuggets.
Then one day you realise that all you have been doing for years and years is just sitting there watching; mute, dissatisfied and hungry every time you go to McDonald’s and it’s no longer enough. You want to be in restaurants and kitchens and at dining tables with people who share your passion for great, clever, different, beautiful food made from local organic produce from the gardens of lesbians.
You realise that you have been spending a lot of energy trying to improve McDonald’s to no avail. So you take some time to try other delights and find that they are so nourishing and delicious. These foods are wild and different and they can be assembled in wonderful, charming combinations. It occurs to you for the first time that eating well requires intelligence and creativity and that food can be more than taste and calories – food can be intensely satisfying – it can be joyous and fulfilling.
So you walk away relieved but saddened, because you discover that as long as people are showing up to buy the same burgers from the same people at the same franchises all over the world – without asking for anything different – it will always just be… McDonalds.
You thought that you could make a clean break from McDonald’s – but your entire life history has revolved around McDonad’s, so it’s not that easy. McDonald’s has shaped the way you once saw food, it has informed your table manners, the way you think about social behaviour, and how you understand the world beyond McDonald’s. To make matters even more difficult your family still go to McDonald’s regularly. That’s all they talk about, that’s all they care about, that’s all they do. And they still spend money at McDonald’s; lots of money – some of it yours! Your family object to you bringing any other food other than McDonald’s into the house, and if you go out to other restaurants (usually alone) you know that even if you had a wonderful time and a great meal no one is going to ask you about it when you get home. In the past every time you told them about your delicious non-McDonald’s meal your spouse cried, or your mother and father berated themselves. They’d moan and wail,
“What did we do wrong that she doesn’t like McDonald’s anymore! We tried our best! Maybe we shouldn’t have let her be friends with that girl from New Zealand when she was a teenager. I never liked her and I heard she doesn’t go to McDonald’s now either.”
They will do this because they are afraid that you won’t all be in McDonald’s together when you die.”
So you become a restaurant reviewer and a food critic. Not because you hate McDonald’s as such. How could you? You grew up on its hamburgers and shakes for most of your life and you had some lovely experiences there. While you loved McDonald’s everyone in the restaurant loved you! But you can see how the food and the restaurant service could be better – much better. However, every time you mention McDonald’s and point out how many times you found a hair in your burger, or raised a question over the poor nutritional quality, or try and give feedback on how bad the management can get, a loyal McDonald’s patron said,
“You can leave McDonald’s but you can’t leave McDonalds’ alone.’
So you tell that patron – I’d like to but as long as my family and my money is still going to McDonald’s I’m going to stay interested in what’s happening in the restaurant. Besides which, I don’t go down the street, the motorway or turn on the TV without coming across some advertisement for McDonald’s. So I guess that gives me a right to say what the hell I like about the damned franchise.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, business, events and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental. Besides which the author still goes to McDonald’s regularly even though she takes her own picnic lunch (which she eats noisily and happily in front of everyone) or dashes out during peak time to pick something up from somewhere else.