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Day 55 – McDonald’s Is America

December 4, 2010

Location: Buenos Aires, Argentina

Date: Saturday, December 4, 2010

Compared to McDonald’s, I prefer In-N-Out; and Del Taco; and a homemade peanut butter and jelly sandwich; and just about anything short of a poop sandwich in pee sauce.

On the road, though, the things are different. On the road I seek out McDonald’s in every country I can. McDonald’s—the de facto American commercial embassy—is a window into local culture and cuisine. The McDonald’s food around the world is mostly the same, but the company is smart enough to know that, if it wants customers, it has to play to local tastes. You take “classic American” food and feed it through the Rube Goldberg machine and out comes America through the eyes of China, Thailand, or Oman.

In China, that means McChicken sandwiches with dark meat. In the Philippines, that means fried chicken, spaghetti with spicy tomato sauce, and a cultural affection for nicknames (there, the restaurant is referred to as “McDoh’s”). In France that means the Quarter Pounder with Cheese is called a Royale with Cheese (because they use the metric system, they wouldn’t know what the ‘ef a quarter pounder was).

Here, in Argentina, that means. . .what exactly? Nothing on the menu jumps out as different. The only thing that I could see that was aimed towards locals were McFlurries with dulce de leche, a local obsession.

After I ordered, went upstairs, flipped open my Big Mac, and chowed on the fries, I realized that the Argentine differences were in the presentation.

First off, the McDonald’s stuck with a South American queuing quirk: a love for waiting in line. Here’s what I mean. More often than not, you will wait in line to pay and order your food. Then, you will be directed to another line where, after another wait, you can give your receipt with your order to another person who will make your food. Why? Wouldn’t it be more efficient for the person taking your order to tell the person making your order what you ordered?

At McDonald’s in Argentina, that means waiting in a separate line for someone to make your ice cream. Perhaps it is because all South American countries are, deep down, communist and this is an attempt at full employment. Pinkos. . .

McDonald’s here also plays to the Argentine tendency to take long, leisurely meals. You never see a local walking around with a to-go cup of coffee. Everyone here sits and sips for at least an hour, chatting with friends or reading a paper. McDonald’s is no different. There are computers with free internet. TV’s showing sporting events, music videos, and dramas and comedies. The seating area is large because the slow table turnover means there has to be more seats for new customers.

The one unique item, the dulce de leche with almonds, was quite good if not a bit sweet. I ate it outside at the base of the obelisk. Turns out there’s one advantage to waiting in a separate line—you can pick up your ice cream after eating your burger so that it isn’t melted by the time you get to it. Who knew that communism keeps the ice cream cold?

Visual Randomness – A Featured Pic That’s Cool But Doesn’t Fit The Narrative

GALLERY: No bonus pics today.

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