Monday, September 11, 2017

An Ode to the Golden Arches

On Sunday--after two grand taxis, one petite taxi and a lot of walking hungry and lost, I had decided I had enough of Morocco for the day.  I wanted some comfort food, I wanted some Mickey D's.

I knew there was at-least one in Meknes, I had heard someone mention it ("McDo's").  I asked a petite taxi to take me, but amazingly I found an honest taxi driver--who pointed across the juncture to the Golden Arches in the distance.  I thanked him for his rectitude, and made my way to McDonald's.

A lil context as I walked across the sun-baked street.  I had not had McDonald's in probably close to 20 months.  I last had it as I was killing time at a Bogota shopping mall, waiting to watch Star Wars Rogue One.  I don't usually opt for fast food, but every once in a long while I need my fix.  Which inherently what fast food should be--a once-in-a-while binge on salt, sugar and grease; a heavy helping of sodium, caffeine and cholesterol.

But as I neared the Golden Arches, I ran into literally, conscience.  Or Konshens the MC, who is the Next Level Morocco MC.  I had met Konshens a few years prior, and was quite pleased that the talented MC was selected.

Konshens asked me where I was headed, and I furtively nodded towards MickeyDs.  But we got to chatting, and he was a hungry vegan.  Being a vegetarian in Morocco is damn hard; being a vegan is downright impossible.  So I felt the need to help him get fed, and I would save McDonald's for a later day.

That day came this afternoon as I made my way back to Ronald's haunts.  It is always a bit of culture shock entering a McDonald's somewhere in the world--a strange transformation from the foreign to the familiar.  Crisp sanitized McDonald's with its familiar colors, smells and rhythms.

I stood in line, and marveled at all the Moroccans standing in line with me.  NO one in Morocco stands in line, if it can be rushed, avoided or skipped.  And yet everyone was there queued up.  It was not the fastest McDonald's I have ever visited, but I wasn't in a rush and was more enamored with all the other Moroccans around me waiting patiently.

While I waited, I had some time to think about other McDonald's experiences throughout my travels like China, India and otherwise.  The signs on the wall proclaimed that this McDonald's was the only one in Morocco that was completely halal; I wondered how that would affect the price of the BigMac on the Big Mac Index, as I know that the kosher burgers affected the price of burgers in Israel on the index; I thought of the McDonald's I visited in Buenos Aires that was all-kosher; of the veggie McDonald's in India.

I waited in line until it was my turn, glancing at the smiling faces laced in braces (a sign of societal increases of wealth).  I opted to go for frou-frou menu, and got an El Magnifico with some sort of maestro burger.  The menu came with fries (sans salt, amazingly) and a coke.  With ICE.

The reality of McDonald's in the developing world (and really just about any MickeyDs outside of North America) is that it is decidedly middle class fair.  It wasn't cheap, especially by Moroccan standards (about $6.75 for the meal, which is definitely not fast food levels here).

I have to admit, it was actually pretty good.  The double burgers came on a poppy-seeded brioche with caramelized onions, lettuce and cornichons, topped with a mayonnaise citronnée and a smoked bbq sauce.  Tres chic, no?  At least it sounds it.

I am pretty agnostic about McDonald's.  Domestically, I am critical because I think it could be more of a leader for better wages and healthcare for the industry--which employs so many.  Ronald knows, it makes enough profits.

But globally, I am less critical.  Often working conditions in McDonalds globally are not bad.  It pays a better wage than most jobs in developing countries, and in other developed countries actually pays a livable wage. 

As I have long noted, McDonald's is not a gastrodiplomacy embassy of American goodwill; it is a business that actually adapts pretty well to local tastes.

So that is my brief ode to the Golden Arches in Meknes... أنا أحبه  

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