I know I’m supposed to hate McDonald’s. It’s right up there with Wal-Mart on the List of Places Left-Thinking People should boycott. But here’s my secret (I guess, not so much any more): I kind of like it. Actually, I like three specific McDonald’s things, and all for good reasons:
1). Coke and Diet Coke.
Nothing tastes like a McDonald’s Coke on a hot day. Or a cold day. Or at 4 a.m. when you’re rushing to the airport. I understand that’s like saying, nothing beats a generic generic, but I’m not kidding. I am something of a soda connoisseur (another point against me in the race to save the world), which is a fancy way of saying I drink a LOT of it. And I, like Paris Hilton, have been everywhere. McDonald’s Coke and Diet Coke both have a wonderful bubble-to-drink ratio. They’re mixed just right — not too much syrup. They always have the appropriate amount of ice, so that the drink stays cold but when I’m done, there’s not that much left melting in the cup, so I don’t feel like I paid $1 (right now they’re on sale — regularly, sigh, $1.75) for ice. And in the same way I’d defend anything at McDonald’s, I’ll say this: it’s consistent. A McD’s Coke in Kansas tastes the same as one in Oregon, and generally costs about the same, too. More than that, I appreciate the little details: the straws are great. Think I’m insane? Go to Arby’s, right now, and order a Diet Pepsi. See that huge straw you get? It ensures two things: 1). if you drink at the same rate you drink a McDonald’s drink, you will drain the cup faster, because each sip takes in about twice as much soda. 2). if you knock that cup over, it’s gonna spill everywhere. EVERYWHERE. And even though it’s the tastier Pepsi variety, you do not want that stuff all over your car. Trust me on this.
2). The McGriddle.
McDonald’s breakfasts hold sentimental value for me — when I was growing up, once a week for, oh, at least 5 years, my father took my sister and I to McDonald’s for breakfast before school. We sometimes indulged in what was then the gold standard of breakfast sandwiches, the Bacon, Egg, and Cheese Biscuit (they weren’t so creative with their names back then), which featured, well, round bacon, round egg, and square cheese on a break-apart buttery biscuit. My father always added a packet of strawberry jam to his, a habit that seemed crazy until we tried it. Years later, McDonald’s caught on to the wonder that is a trace of sweet on a stack of saltiness, and the McGriddle was born.
What a frickin’ brilliant idea. You take the standard egg sandwich, and you put the cheapest imaginable cheese on it, and then you put two syrup-laced biscuity-muffins around it, and you charge something like $3 for it (I get the no-meat version but still pay the meat rate). This, people, is how the world is conquered.
3). McDonald’s French Fries.
I’m sure someone’s going to now tell me that McDonald’s fries and their grease are laced with bacon and cow offal and the fingernails of Indonesian slave children. First, McDonald’s (again) says they aren’t (and OK, they were lying before, but now they mean it!). Second, I defy all of you to continue these negative thoughts in the actual presence of the McDonald’s Fries. Think of them: hot, crispy, salty, in the oh-so-familiar red cardboard box or the tiny paper bag, almost too hot to hold in your hand. Say what you will, meat-eaters, but I know you aren’t going to McDonald’s for the burgers. You’re going for those crunchy little afterthoughts, the thrown-in fries that put the VALUE in your Extra Value Meal (does Rachael Ray call it an EVM?). They’re the workhorse of the fast food industry, the food that the kids fight over in the backseat, the one thing I’m willing to pull to the side and wait for a fresh batch of in the drive-thru. They taste good solo, they taste good drenched in salt and ketchup, they taste good dragged through honey or dipped in a vanilla milkshake. They taste good sober, they taste good just south of there; the only time they don’t taste good, in fact, is when they’re cold, which is one of many reasons that they never last that long.
Apparently I’m going to write odes to the most common of things this summer. Should I feel shame? Nah. If there was a time for that, surely it was after my I Heart Applebee’s declaration of March.