By Austin Shiner
BEIJING, China, 11:03 p.m. — I don’t care for McDonalds. Everything on the menu tastes the same: soft textured protein and carbs, occasionally with a mild crunch, mixed with a creamy sauce and a limp vegetable. But whereas the food is merely boring it’s the image that’s actively bothersome. The Golden Arches symbolize something foodies counter, namely America’s crusade against local agriculture and culinary identity.
McDonald’s is big in China. It’s the only food available in the Olympic Village besides popcorn, chocolate chip bread, sausage on a stick, and “president snack noodles” (which aren’t much better than American ramen). When hunger strikes after a long day of women’s 10-meter air pistol, as it so often has for Sam and me, it’s either McDonald’s or a growling stomach. Despite my misgivings, I’ve now chosen McDonald’s three times. First a Big Mac, second a McMuffin, third a Mc-chicken sandwich.
I feel bad. But should I? I’ve changed sides, flip flopped, and now stand hand-in-hand with corporate America. Yet, when the mood’s right, McDonald’s tastes good, albeit in a primal I-was-hungry-but-now-I’m-not-so-I’m-happy kind of way. Rationalizing my behavior, I submit another thought: I, at this very moment, harbor a deep craving for Western food, particularly butterfat (as found in cheese and dairy), despite my love of Chinese cuisine. Recall my “Gastronomic Globalization” post: Beijing offers pitifully little world culinary variety. Thus, despite my damaged foodie ego, I admit that McDonald’s is a genuine comfort in this alien gastronomic jungle. It’s uniform, it’s bland, it’s fatty, but McDonald’s is American and so am I.