The Lost Blogs #4
When I was a kid, I used to eat at McDonald’s once a week. Every Saturday morning, just me and my dad. I would get the Happy Meal with a cheeseburger (but sometimes, the chicken nuggets). When given a choice, I (of course) opted for the “girl’s toy” which was usually a Barbie, and would often cry if only the “boy’s toy” was available – unless the boy’s option were Hot Wheels. I liked Hot Wheels.
I started eating at McDonald’s less frequently. At the time, not for health concerns, but just because living in California, there were so many other better options. I don’t remember when exactly, but In-n-Out became really popular around high school, especially when one opened up in my hometown. Many students started to work there part-time and the pay was really good at above minimum wage. Then, maybe while I was in my first year of college, I began to learn about just how bad McDonald’s was for one’s health. I mean, I always knew that fast food wasn’t healthy. But, I didn’t realize just how bad McDonald’s particularly was. I read Fast Food Nation. I read health articles in magazines and journals. I decided never to eat there ever again!
In-n-Out Double Double Animal Style (this was Nick’s burger, not mine!)
In my second year of college, I wanted to lose some weight, in particular my “Freshmen 15”, so I loosely followed the guidelines for The South Beach Diet, generally just trying to improve my eating habits without really going on a diet or depriving myself of things I enjoyed – whole grains, more vegetables, eating smaller portions more frequently, and eating dark chocolate with 65% or more cacao. I lost a few pounds and I felt healthier. I didn’t cut out fast food completely, because I was a college student, and I wasn’t working, so I didn’t have a lot of money and had odd schedules based around my classes. But, I tried to make smarter choices, and tried to avoid the obviously-bad-for-you fast food chains such as McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, etc. I still ate burgers at In-n-Out, but I wouldn’t eat double-doubles or get a milkshake or anything crazy like that. I ate at “gourmet” fast food places like Chipotle, or places that offered “healthier” options like Subway.
So, it’s been fine. Every now and then I would get a nostalgic craving for McDonald’s, or sometimes during late-night study (cram) sessions we would get hungry, and McDonald’s would be our only option open. I regretted it every time. No matter what I ate, whether I went all out and ordered a Big Mac meal, or just got chicken nuggets and small fries, I would get a fat headache. It was like, grease+fat+cholesterol overload. My body just couldn’t take it. So, I usually tried to avoid these obviously-bad-for-you fast food chains. (Although, I won’t lie, I sometimes succumb to late-night Jack-in-the-Box with my friends after a night of partying.) Yeah. I won’t lie. I didn’t avoid fast food completely. But, I avoided McDonald’s like it was the plague. (Yes, I realize Jack-in-the-Box is just as bad. But, I didn’t eat there frequently and usually only got one thing from the value menu at 3am when really, nothing else was open.)
Fast forward a couple years later to when I arrived in Japan. I had probably gone without McDonald’s completely for maybe three years, and maybe only ate there a total of 3 or 4 times over five years. I was pretty proud of myself. But, I was a little homesick when I moved to Japan, so you can only imagine what I did when I saw McDonald’s at our shopping mall food court. I ate there.
Reason #1: It’s familiar. In a country where tempura, sushi, don-buri, and curry rice are the norm, it is nice to be able to eat a cheeseburger.
The menu at McDonald’s is kind of the same, and kind of not. The most popular items from America are on the menu and taste exactly the same as I remember: BigMac, Quarter Pounder with Cheese, Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese, French fries, chicken nuggets, milk shakes, Oreo McFlurries… Then, they have some exclusive items, some which taste good (Shaka Shaka Chicken), some that don’t taste good (Teriyaki Burger, McPork), and some which I still haven’t tried yet (Ebi [Shrimp] Burger). McDonald’s also has some Japan-exclusive promotional menu items, including the latest Big America and Big America 2 burgers.
Reason 2. Exclusive Japan-only menu items. Can’t resist! Especially because the latest set of burgers have been America-themed.
One thing I noticed immediately about McDonald’s in Japan is that I didn’t get headaches from eating there. The burger buns and meat didn’t feel greasy to the touch. The paper wrapper wasn’t see-through from soaking in grease. The advertisements claim that the patties are 100% beef, except for the chicken or pork based burgers. The eggs in the breakfast menu also appear to be slices from real eggs. The McMuffin and McGriddle sandwiches don’t contain that fluffy, foam-like “scrambled egg” mixture that comes from a box. They contain a slice of real egg – white with yolk in the center.
Reason 3. It seems to be real food, and not as unhealthy as the product sold in America.
Reason 4. They have breakfast. Do you have any idea how much I miss hash browns and bacon? A typical breakfast in Japan is usually grilled fish, pickled vegetables, miso soup, and rice. Bacon in Japan is not bacon – it’s more like ham.
Reason 5. You can choose Minute Maid Orange Juice instead of soda! And it isn’t the overpriced orange juice, available only at breakfast time, that comes in a tiny child-size box.
So, there, you have it. I admit it. I have been eating McDonald’s – and I’ve been eating it often. I know it can’t be good for me. I try not to eat there so often. But I definitely have been eating there more often than I have been at home – which used to be practically never.
I don’t know. I just can’t help it!
(And neither can any other foreigner I meet here!)