Jamie Reidy recalls the surprising circumstances in which he enjoyed the ultimate Big Mac.
I hadn’t thought about my 1994 China trip in quite a while, but this WSJ.com article about McDonald’s fast food quality concerns prompted a trip down memory Great Wall.
The fast-food giant is planning to air a series of television commercials this summer to portray itself as the fast-food brand in China with the best quality. The ads will feature “100% fresh beef” on the chopping block.
I’m a lousy tourist for a number of reasons, but mostly because walking around and looking at things I normally wouldn’t find interesting saps my energy like an old kegerator. (Note: you do not want to go shopping with me, either.) But in foreign countries my culinary curiosity cannot be contained. That is why I insist on sampling a Big Mac in every nation I visit, fifteen at last count.
My daring tradition began in the fall of 1990, when I spent a semester in London. Immediately following our arrival, “Mad Cow Disease” made headlines across the globe. Our parents phoned to express major concerns and implore us not to eat any red meat. “That’s gonna be really expensive, Mom…” Everybody got an increase in their monthly bank deposit; many of my classmates simply pocketed the bonus and continued eating fast food burgers like good Americans should. No obvious side effects have surfaced. Yet.
I traveled to Spain and Greece and Paris during those four months, and sampled Big Macs in each location. After graduation, when my Army service took me to Japan for two years, I felt compelled to continue my foreign fast food research.
Ex-girlfriends have condemned me for being an idiot American, but I truly enjoy discovering the differences between our Mickey D’s and theirs. Being able to order a beer with my #1 combo meal, for instance.
Who served up the best Big Mac in my travels? The McDonald’s next to Tiananmen Square. Tanks = Bad. Burgers = Good.
The Beijing version of Ray Kroc’s signature creation tasted like the TV commercials look. I even ordered a second one just to make sure I wasn’t delirious from food poisoning. I wasn’t. The experience was almost enough to make a 24-year old U.S. Army officer defect on the spot.
The timing could not have been more fortuitous. On our fourth day in China, one of my friends looked out a taxi window and announced grimly, “Y’know, I haven’t seen a stray cat in this country yet.” We avoided mom-n-pop establishments after that. Leaning heavily on McDonald’s early penetration in the market, we managed to survive.
Judging from the WSJ.com article, Mickey D’s is making a big investment to ensure it maintains that kind of loyalty.
Where’s the best Big Mac you’ve ever had?
Photo by basykes