One of my roommates is a highly driven young entrepreneur raised in Asia
by American parents, and he is an enthusiastic consumer of all
ingestibles, be they solid, liquid, or smoke. Like me, his favorite
foods are uni and foie gras. Like me, he loves excellent craft beer,
appreciates delicately carved usuzukuri, and values freshness of
ingredients. He's a goddamned snob, frankly. Yet perhaps once a month, an
evil gleam appears in his eye, and he says, "Brandon, you deserve a
And we're off to McDonald's, for we both love the place.
Partially because McDonald's tastes good. Not always, granted, and not
in the way more carefully prepared foods taste good. McDonald's' charms
are among the oldest known to the human palate; the allure of molten
lipids and the decadence of dessicants. Fat and sodium were the first
things craved by human mouths in those dim days when Australopithecus
roamed the Southern Hemisphere, when meats and minerals were in mortally
short supply. McDonald's feeds ancestral hungers. It's why kids have
such an automatic appreciation for the stuff.
But personally, I
enjoy McDonald's less as a food than as a drug. I understand why so many
people eat poorly when stressed. My usual intake at McDonald's is a
Double Quarter Pounder, a large fry, a large Coke or shake, and a
six-piece McNugget. (Sometimes I'm feeling crazy and add a Fish Fillet.
It's OK, though -- I walk a lot.) Unless I'm in the middle of a day of
strenuous physical labor, that combination does to me what opium did to
Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Within 60 minutes, I'm in a fetal position on a
couch, gazing out the window with heavy-lidded eyes, thinking profound
and occasionally disturbing thoughts but utterly at peace with all of them.
Family problems, tax problems, the United States' dire political
situation, the economy, my lack of insurance, whatever -- it's all
interesting, it's all worth consideration, and none of it's very worth
worrying about. I may jot something in a notebook. I smile. I babble
some nonsense at somebody in the room. I have the meat sweats. I fall
into a happy sleep full of vague, friendly dreams. Then I awake, sharp
and unhungry. (And occasionally suffering from a dehydration headache.)
isn't just me. It's biology, the inevitable side effect of a
fat-salt-and-sugar orgy. McDonald's is a senses-duller, a
worrying-inhibitor. It's no wonder that a highly driven Third Culture
Kid and a toiler in a dying industry would want to binge on the stuff
from time to time. It's no wonder that poor people love it so. It's no
wonder that tubby women occasionally get into fights at the McDonald's
counter while waiting for a fix. Right after I plow through a huge tray
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of McDonald's, as that first wave of calorie narcosis swooshes over my
nervous system and my synapses unwind and my vocabulary slips and the
whole world goes fuzzy-friendly, it just seems amazing that those lunchtime brawls don't happen