The Frogmarch

"I've got to pull up my stakes and roll, man." --Jean-Jacques Libris de Kerouac

Thursday, September 28, 2006

"It Is All That I Love."*

*Literal translation of French version of McDonald's ad slogan "I'm Lovin' It."

I swore to myself I wouldn't do it. I wouldn't. Hell, I hadn't set foot in a McDonald's in probably 2 or 3 years before coming to France (and definitely not since I read Fast Food Nation), so why start now in a city with some of the best cuisine on the planet?

But there are days when I'm tied up in meetings until after the cafeteria quits serving, or they're serving your choice of beef tongue or boudin noir (blood sausage), and it's too rainy to go get a sandwich and eat in the park, and I don't have time to spend the two hours it usually takes to eat in an actual restaurant. Days when I have a choice: get something from the vending machine, or go to the McDonald's down the street [Photo: service entrance to McDonald's at Grange Blanche].

I was very self-conscious when I went in there, feeling like the cliche Yank tourist, half-expecting everyone to turn around and point: "Where's your fanny pack, Lardy McShovelburger?" Ever seen a Mexican family scarfing breakfast burritos in Taco Bell? Me neither, but I'm sure they'd feel the same way.

Vincent Vega was right: The little things are different. Yes, in France you can get a 12-ounce beer (more precisely, 33cL) with your extra-value meal--which, by the way, is confusingly called a "Pack Best Of." With your Pack Best Of, you also have the choice of frites or "deluxe potatoes", which are thick like steak fries. Not "patates de luxe", but "deluxe potatoes". Are you supposed to say this with a French accent, or drop out of your stream of French and deliver those two words as a straight Americanism? Regardless, they come with a packet of herbed mayonnaise to drench them in...not bad, actually.

Your Pack Best Of Royal Cheese (not "Royale"--Travolta must have pronounced it wrong--and not "avec fromage", either) will set you back Eur5.80. Try not to convert the exchange rate into dollars while you're eating.

I know I've complained about French customer service before, but McDonald's is one of the very few places where it's better than in the States. Maybe it's because jobs are relatively scarce here, but French McDonald's seems to actually hire people with IQs approaching average. And the burgers! Why, they look just like in the ads! The bun's not squished, and the lettuce isn't all falling out one side! For $7.25, it had better look nice.

Still, I don't go very often; for all the official French opposition to creeping Americanism and Disneyfied cultural hegemony, the place is always packed--and not with American tourists.

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