Sunday, March 16, 2008
Feng Mac, Anyone?
It's a slow news day as I write this--if you don't count Spitzer resigning and the car bombs in Iraq--so why not talk fast food?
NPR yesterday morning told the odd and silly story of a Los Angeles-area McDonald's which has been laid out and constructed and interior designed according to the precepts of Feng Shui--directional positioning, curved surfaces everywhere, spaces for the wind gods to blow through maybe. (Sounds more like Oi Vey to me.) Okay, it's located in a predominantly Chinese-clientele part of the L.A. sprawl, but still... Big Macs? Cokes? Ronald McDonald?
It's one thing for Mickey D's and the Cola Kingdom to head greedily to Beijing, but quite another for an ancient culture to be shoehorned kicking and screaming into the Home of the Golden Arches. Why not a golden-domed McAchmed mosque? (Because the Moslem population would be insulted?) Or free handouts from the Torah with every burger purchased? (Jewish good-humor goes only so far?) I guess Buddhists and Confucianists, being generally peaceful and inscrutable and such, are considered less likely to object, more willing to... what, adapt? ignore?
The bigger mystery is: why not go the whole distance and alter your McDonald's menu to match? Evidently the franchise owner has no intention to offer bowls of rice or Chinese provincial delicacies beyond the "meals" and salads already on display. Heck, the guy's clearly missing a bet. We have a fast food local here on Vashon Island that offers Thai specialty dishes right next to burgers named for the high school team and certain island characters!
Us young-oldtimers have already lived through the transformation of McDonald's, Taco Time, and such from grab-a-meal joints to family-friendly sitdown eateries offering a lower-priced alternative to "real" restaurants. (Of course, many of them now purvey Starbuck's or some rival designer coffee brand... oops.) I'm actually old enough to have frequented one of the first McDonald's that Ray Kroc built outside of California, back around 1961 in Evanston, Illinois, where every weekend us college boys would trek the mile or so to that golden-arched stand-up (lean-on counters outdoors, as I recall), where we could get two cheeseburgers, fries, and a milk for just under a dollar. And the sign back then read: "Over 10,000 Sold."
The pretentions of food sellers and food eaters know no bounds. Buy local, eat organic only, consume nothing you have't raised yourself, monitor your carbon footprint during both the growing and the transporting, maybe eat nothing that bears offspring (not much left to chew on then)--I reckon those are all admirable attitudes. It's just the matter of belief vs. money available. And you will certainly find sellers willing to cater (yes) to your demands; it's all about niche marketing these days, right? The "Slow Food" movement, and obscure fruits, and vegetables grown according to Feng Shui maybe, as the answer to mega-farms and dangerous Chinese imports and fast food by any other name.
And now NPR today states that some consortium in Brazil is buying up all of America's slaughterhouses and meat-packing plants and cattle ranches. Should we carnivores be concerned? Just because we import Argentinian beef doesn't mean we welcome "carcassbaggers"! Is Congress going to save the American hamburger from its global-economy fate? (The anti-Latin-immigrants faction is already gearing up, I bet.)
Wealthy "foodies" want bottles of wine costing thousands of dollars to brag about? Well, that means there'll be some crooks willing to sell them leftover dregs or cheaper vintages at sky-high prices--does the concept "new wine in old bottles" sound familiar?
And my wife tells me some bigname local chefs are touting fruit-flavored carbonated drinks (kumquat, rhubarb, pomegranate, and lavender are a few of the flavors) as alternatives to wine. Oh really? A vintage 2008 persimmon punch swirling around in your goblet? I wonder what sort of "legs" it has. Carbonation goes so well with the chef's latest recipes, no doubt.
Certain well-known sayings spring to mind: "There's a sucker born every minute..." "No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American populace..." (make that consumer). Or my own favorite, the sign in P.T. Barnum's freakshow tent herding the gawkers onward (and perfectly apropos at this penultimate moment), "This Way to the Egress..."