We’re All Going on a Summer Holiday: Day Twenty-Seven

Saturday, 7 March 2009

McDonalds fries taste the same – everywhere

Ah, McDonalds. Great when you’re in a pinch and need to sate the enormous appetite kids have for school-holiday fun. And McDonalds is SO fun – especially the queues. Boy oh boy, do the Chinese love cheeseburgers. This franchise is making a whopping great killing.

Oh yeah, baby - when you get into China, you are IN. Let's call it People Power.

Back to lunch.

Thinking outside the square [read: how to avoid any semblance of a queue – ha!], I hustled the kids and their playdate, Georgia, out for an early lunch – after all, 11.15am is close enough to lunchtime for my belly. I was sort of quasi-smiling that “I’m so smart” kind of smirk the whole way there, even though walking in the Beijing heat usually wipes any kind of smirk off my face in a real hurry. But that smirk didn’t need hair-melting heat to be swiped from my mug – it was opening the door to Maccas that did that for me.

It looked like rush hour.

11.15am?? I mean – come on! Why can’t these people wait till lunch time!? I was horrified but reluctantly joined the queue and sent the kids on the hunt for a spare seat, which they eventually found in the hours* it took me to queue and order. First they found one seat. Then two, then three – then by the time I got to them, my three little hunters had successfully staked out four seats. Together, too. SO proud.

Every time we go to McDonalds, I promise myself I’ll only have coffee. I’ve seen all the documentaries and know what those fries are made of (nothing that began life in the ground, according to some sources). But my oh my, they are addictive. We don’t frequent Maccas a lot, but I have been there enough times to know my kids will tear off a limb if I try to steal even one of their fries, so I did order some fries for myself. A small fries. Okay – a medium fries. And that coffee. With four sachets of milk (much to the horror of the Chinese woman next to me – has she never heard of a lattè?) And I did have one teensy tooth-scrape of bun from Riley’s cheeseburger (I don’t eat the meat) and ate all the kids’ pickles. But that’s it, I promise. Trust me, this body just has to look at a burger and my thighs double in size.

What struck me the most about this particular trip to McDonalds was that the kids just enjoyed the meal so much. Why? Is it because they hardly ever get to go? Is it a novelty? Is it the Happy Meal toys that get hidden in the corner of the rubbish bin by mum the moment the kids are looking the other way? Is the meat injected with happy hormones? I mean, what is it about McDonalds food that entrances kids so much?

I remember when we first arrived in China, we went to Maccas on our second or third day and were stunned by the absence of the humble apple pie, which was instead curiously stuffed with red beans. Sure – we gave it a go. We wanted to fully embrace China. I don’t mind a red bean, but let’s just say the new pineapple pies are warmly welcomed.

The burgers at McDonalds China tastes pretty much the same, though – and those fries are pretty much carved from the same stuff they are everywhere else in the world. I guess this can be seen as a good or a bad thing, depending on which end of the cholesterol scale you are standing on. For our family, we’ll continue to make this trip a very special treat. And – like I said – anything in a pinch.

Tania McCartney

*Here’s a tip for the local Chinese on how to order McDonalds and shorten the considerable and ubiquitous queues. Decide what you want to order BEFORE you get to the counter!

First published on the City Weekend Beijing website.

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