I made some mention of McDonald’s yesterday, in reference to the fact that I pour fluids down my gaping pie-hole like a Delta Zeta girl tricked into eating her basket of fries with Hellish Habanero Eternal Burn Sauce instead of ketchup. Apparently, I must be feeling a bit thematic today, because I’m not quite done rambling on about the Golden Arches.
Over the course of the past year, I’ve had a number of discussions regarding McDonald’s with several people completely unrelated to each other, except in that they have some tenuous relationship to me. The point of each of these discussions was exactly the same: somehow, Ronald’s buddies are finding subtle ways to slip crack into the stuff you get there.
Now, I’m not taking about the Big Mac or the QPC. We’re just naturally attached to those because we’ve been taught to want them since we were gleefully fed our first Happy Meal at the tender age of three. Once a child realizes that the a trip past the Arches means a cool cardboard box of Your Very Own Food, with a bonus toy inside (!), well, it’s pretty much history after that. I think it’s safe to say that in this regard, we’re a much better example of conditioning than Pavlov’s dogs. Sure, eventually you outgrow the toy inside (mostly), but then, the dogs eventually stop needing to see the meat. By the time you reach middle school, all you need to see are those gleaming Golden Arches and you’re drooling just like a trained pooch hearing a bell ring.
Of course, the dogs helped Pavlov earn a Noble Prize. We’re mostly just earning coronary artery disease.
Anyway, so, the crack. The two biggest things I hear about non-primary items from McDonald’s is that:
- The Coke is best Coke ever, and
- Mickey D’s ketchup is the finest condiment man has ever brought forth from a tomato.
I have fundamental issues with both of these suggestions. First off, Coke is Coke (well, except when it’s New Coke; that abomination wasn’t Coke at all, that was evidence of the Ole’ Smokey’s work among men). And while there was a time when the recipe did actually call for cocaine, sadly…er….thankfully, those days are long past. So, no, McDonald’s Coke itself isn’t better.
That said, I do tend to agree that there’s something fundamentally special about the way that damn clown packages his Coke. There’s some magic formula in the ice, which I suspect is either sweetened or treated with a special chemical to cause formulaic melting, I dunno. But this I do know: The McDonald’s straw is a piece of modern engineering more impressive than the Hoover Dam. The thing is six times larger in circumference than your average soda straw, which makes it just slightly smaller than your average garden hose. And it nearly pumps that drink into your mouth. More Coke delivered in each slurp = happy people.
Secondly, the ketchup at McDonald’s (in these parts, at least) is simply Heinz, the same Heinz ketchup sold anywhere in America. But again, I will agree that something about it tastes better. I don’t, as a rule, have much use for ketchup, except when I roll up into McDonaldsLand. In this case, though, I think I can clearly explain why the ketchup is so magical. It’s not the ketchup though, it’s the fries. McFries contain more salt per volume than you’ll find in seawater. So, it’s that same salt that makes me feel simultaneously bloated and, oddly, cactus-like later in the afternoon is what brings out the uber-sweetness in the ketchup.
Next week, I’ll be experimenting with some Value Menu fries and a room-temperature bottle of Heinz. Who wants to see my lab report?
I honestly believe that, as I said last night, the people running the Ronald McDonald Show are some of cleverest product-pushers anywhere. They get the kids early, and then keep them hooked up with a diabolical triumvirate of sodium, fat, and nostalgia. Then again, I don’t know, maybe McDonald’s is using crack-cocaine to keep the balance-sheet positive. Health doesn’t seem real high on their list of priorities.