The late Bill Hicks had a joke that went something along the lines of “If you quit smoking you get your sense of smell back. I live in New York City, I don’t want my sense of smell back”. There’s a comedian in the UK who does the same joke. He say’s “Smoking makes you lose your sense of taste, that’s alright, I eat in McDonalds, I don’t want to taste my food” (or something like that).
This irritates me for a number of reasons. Firstly, I don’t like jokes which is some way glamorise and justify smoking, like it’s some sort of stick-it-to-the-man pursuit, when it’s clearly one of the biggest corporate enslavers on the planet. Secondly, using other people’s jokes isn’t good practice. And thirdly, I don’t think it works. The original does, to an extent. Perhaps New York does smell bad in places, (although probably no worse than most other cities), and so having no sense of smell would have it’s advantages, although I’d guess the disadvantages would surely outweigh them (gas leaks, burning cakes etc.). But in the ‘recycled’ version it makes no sense at all. McDonalds food is unhealthy? Yes, of course it is in excess. It’s something to be ashamed of and looked down upon? Yes, sometimes, depends how much of a snob you are. It’s a big corporation and it doesn’t pretend otherwise, so that’s wrong? Yes, I suppose so. It tastes bad? Well, this is where I think the joke becomes unstuck. Certainly it’s not gourmet, but quite frankly, no, it tastes good. Too much and you’ll feel rubbish, as much from the guilt as the excess of calories, but flavour-wise, with it’s excessive use of fat, salt and sugar, of course it tastes nice.
Despite having what I think is a pretty good palette; adventurous; interested; I’ll stand up and proudly say that I enjoy the taste of McDonalds food. Well, some of it. There’s much better burgers out there, of course there are, but I’m not such a pompous coward that I would pretend not to like something because it’s unfashionable. Yes it’s cheap, and I feel guilty after having it, but sometimes it just hits the spot. So there.
Unlike some other parents that I know, I’ve not sheilded my children from the ‘evil’ of the golden arches. They know as well as I do that a balanced diet is a good thing, and that home-cooked food is better for you and tastier and more worthy and all the rest. But equally, they know that sometimes, (early in the morning going somewhere in a hurry for example), a McDonalds breakfast does the job – eaten in the car, still wearing coats (that said I think their hash browns taste of soap. Not nice at all).
At home over the last few years, we’ve devised a breakfast that we call the MockDonalds. It’s a rip-off of their McMuffin, but all home-made, and despite what I’ve said about the original being nice our version is just so much better. I made one this morning:
A split toasted muffin (sometime wholemeal for extra taste, and extra worthiness, although today it was a white one), a fried egg (well seasoned with black pepper and a pinch of crushed chilli while the egg is frying so the pepper and chilli sticks – crispy edges, waxy/runny yolk – though not too runny or the front of your shirt will regret it), ham, sliced and warmed through in the egg pan (in this instance home-boiled and roasted honey and mustard glazed ham), and processed cheese – and yes, it does have to be processed cheese though do experiment if you can’t bring yourself stoop so low. I think a slice of Port Salut or Taleggio would work rather well.
An often enjoyed variation is to substitute the ham for bacon of course, or a good quality sausage – the meat squeezed from it’s skin and then re-shaped into a thin circular ‘burger’. A rarely enjoyed decadence is the inclusion of BOTH!
I have a dream. A dream probably brought on by too much processed cheese. I think MockDonalds is a good ‘joke’ and I reckon a food tent at a festival like Glastonbury selling tasty vegetarian and vegan equivalents of the global giant’s favorites (really good vegeburgers in wholemeal buns with home-made roasted tomato ketchup, red onion, melting Fontina cheese. Or a vege version of my own false McDonalds breakfast muffin), where the fonts on the wrappers are the same but the colour scheme is brown and green, and the food containers mimic those of the corporate behemoth but come in ‘properly’ recycled materials, would be a huge success. Doubtlessly though it would be but minutes before ‘cease and desist’ letters fell on doormats and the whole enterprise was shut down before me and my co-chefs were dragged through the courts by our aprons. So it’ll have to just remain an idea.