Quality-Who Cares?

Down for a Big Mac? E-mail Paul at [email protected].

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I ate at McDonald's recently. Upon reading the last sentence, you may be feeling a small degree of sorrow for me, being that I paid to eat microwaved, fatty food that probably won't help my health. Well, you shouldn't feel too bad; eating at McDonald's is nothing short of a great culinary experience.

Last semester an uncle of mine exposed me to "Fast Food Nation," an exposť on McDonald's that presented facts that unfortunately opposed my opinions of the restaurant. The book exposed every known evil and inhumane practice of the fast-food giant, from the way in which it grinds its beef to how it doesn't exactly hold employee rights in the highest regard.

For example, did you know that the livestock purchased by McDonald's are fed a mix of the entrails of swine and horses? That up until the early 1990s, that distinctly pleasant taste in its french fries came from beef flavoring? That their burgers are also flavored with beef flavoring because the ground beef is re-frozen enough times to cause it to lose its own beef flavor? I didn't know any of these behind-the-scenes practices. At the time these facts were exposed to me, I felt betrayed by the fast-food chain I had once hailed with praise.

Those accusations managed to faze me for roughly two days until I found myself hungry with only six bucks in my pocket and no money in my bank account. No other place saves as many people from their hunger as McDonald's does.

Without even giving a thought to the mix of pig and horse entrails or beef flavoring, I ordered myself a Big Mac and fries meal, and I supersized it. I then consumed the meal as if I were tasting real beef instead of some flimsy piece of cow flesh flavored with a chemically composed, beef-tasting liquid. Shame on "Fast Food Nation" for making me feel deceived and guilty for eating a Big Mac and fries.

The uncle who took pleasure in attempting to stomp on my love for McDonald's is the same uncle who loves to shell out his cash so he can wine and dine at restaurants that would cost a family of four well over $500 for but one dinner. That's probably a month's worth of meals at McDonald's.

Back in 1997, my uncle treated my immediate family to a very posh dinner at Antoine's in New Orleans. Granted, the food was great, as was the experience of dining at the country's most well-known fancy eatery. It is funny, however, to see the extent to which people will go in order to eat a good meal. That night at Antoine's I had fried trout in some sauce with a side of green beans that, I hate to say considering the side alone cost $20, tasted no better than the green beans one gets from a can of Green Giant.

The meal for five probably ended up costing the amount I made working at my first minimum-wage job. The fish was good, but it wasn't necessarily worth the same amount most of us pay for the average 1,000-page history textbook.

Throughout the meal at Antoine's, visions of the 100 McDonald's hamburgers I could have bought with the same money my uncle paid for this meal toyed with my mind and palate. When I told my brother about my visions, he sympathized and added that he remembered having similar thoughts. Just the fact that the two of us were having thoughts of McDonald's while undergoing what was supposed to be a great culinary experience shows how ingrained in our habits the fast-food giant is. You've got to admit that a McDonald's burger does hit the spot more than other foods do. We all need our dose of low-quality fast food once in a while.

While there are people out there who, in the name of quality, turn up their noses at fast food, we must remember that McDonald's doesn't claim to prepare the highest quality food. A meal from McDonald's, however, rarely fails to satisfy. Furthermore, how bad can a place be that employs workers who may otherwise be regarded as unmarketable labor?

The food's good, there's a lot of it, and its quality is consistent-isn't this what a good restaurant is supposed to be? If it is, then eating at McDonald's is nothing short of an exemplary dining experience.


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