Food Fight

My McChildhood
September 8, 2006, 10:58 pm
Filed under: children, food

I am reading Don’t Eat this Book by Morgan Spurlock, you know, the guy who ate nothing but McDonald’s for 30 days and lived to tell about it in his documentary Super Size Me. Of course, reading about a guy eating McD’s is making me think about my own experiences with the place. Now most of you know me as the picky food snob who lately won’t even eat fish. But let me tell you, I wasn’t always like this.

My first memories of McDonald’s are when I was a kid, of course. My mom would bribe me to get out of bed with promises of a McDonald’s breakfast. Me needing bribes to get out of bed isn’t too surprising. And me taking food bribes isn’t shocking either. But for McDonald’s? My 26-year-old self shakes her head at my 5-year-old self.

I loved loved loved the sausage biscuit with egg (you know how I can get about my love for certain foods). I always disliked the weird English muffins and thought that the plastic cheese was gross, but give me a nice greasy biscuit with some egg and sausage on it, with a hot chocolate to wash it down, and I would drag my tired ass out of bed any day for that.

Of course we’d go through the drive-thru because we were in a hurry to get to school or daycare before my mom was off to work, but usually there would be some hangup along the way and we would have to sit there in the parking lot waiting for my food, all the while my mom getting more and more stressed out as the minutes ticked by. So much for the food being fast.

Did I mention that I had a birthday party there? Yup, #5. Oh it was great too. I remember the plastic trays with the paper placemats, the Ronald-themed toys, the fun hats. I guess there was food, but I don’t remember that part. Looking at the pictures, we were a happy bunch: four boys and me. Even back then, most of my friends were boys. (Then boys became yucky for about eight years, so my parties reverted to all-girl affairs 6 and up.)

Then there was the food. I never liked the cheeseburgers because I am proud to say that I have never EVAR liked American cheese. That stuff is nasty. But I was ok with the hamburgers if they didn’t put on those yucky pickles, onion, and mustard. I just wanted the ketchup and none of that other sour stuff. But that took extra time, and I soon discovered the wonder that was McNuggets. For about 40 cents more, I could get a Happy Meal with four chicken nuggets instead of the hamburger. Plus I got that deliciously sweet BBQ sauce with it. So that was my staple MdDonald’s meal: Happy Meal with McNuggets and BBQ sauce, fries, and usually a root beer or orange soda.

How often did I eat there, or at other fast food places? Certainly not once a week. Maybe closer to once or twice a month. That’s just a guess. But I ate there enough to have strong memories of it and really liking it. But of course, we grow up and our tastes become more sophisticated. I generally liked Wendy’s and Arby’s better. It didn’t take long before I realized that I didn’t like McDonald’s any more. By high school, it was generally known that I didn’t want to go there for lunch, preferring the Chinese food at Safeway or pizza, and by college, I knew it was pretty gross. Of course, I’d eat there if that was where everyone was going, and still roadtrips got off to a great start with a McD’s breakfast.

But then I was a poor college student. And I was commuting, with a bus change in downtown Seattle, with often just a few minutes and a few dollars to get dinner at night. And there was a McDonald’s across the street from the bus stop. How convenient! So even though I didn’t particularly like it, I ate many 99-cent Big n’ Tastys from McDonalds. Plus the fries were damn good.

I pretty much stopped eating hardcore fast food around the transition from college to full-time work. I still sometimes eat Baja Fresh or Quizno’s, but that’s about as close as I get. I don’t remember when it was exactly that I stopped eating fast food. I stopped eating the burgers, except for those lean college years, first because they were nothing like the real burgers my dad made or that I could get at a real restaurant. I always hated Taco Bell because that food never resembled food to me. I ate way too much of Subway in college and now I can’t stand the flavorless white cheese and the even more flavorless meat and veggies.

When I first moved to California, I would eat the occasional McFlurry or shake, and I probably had some fries once or twice, not that I can remember any specific instance. I ate at In & Out, once, maybe twice. But it was shortly there after, so probably sometime in 2002, that I decided not to buy anything from McDonald’s again or other fast food burger places. I think mad cow was starting to be a problem, but that wasn’t it specifically. It was just a growing knowledge of the fast food industry that scared me away. Plus I had money and the culinary world of the Bay Area, so why would I bother with those places?

Now, walking into a McDonald’s or a Taco Bell is like walking into a foreign country for me. I’ll occasionally end up in one if I am with some friends and they really want to stop there. I never want to order anything, of course, but I’ll go and look curiously at the latest food-like concoctions they are offering. I can honestly say now that I don’t get it. The restaurants never smell good. They hard plastic tables and chairs look so uninviting. The food never looks anything like the pictures.

I have had McDonald’s exactly once since I stopped eating at fast food places: two years ago when I was visiting my family in Sacramento. My grandpa had just died, and my family was trying to find a place to eat breakfast. My dad had a panic attack, which of course we thought was a heart attack (look at my family and you’d see why) and had to go to the hospital. We never got that breakfast. My sister-in-law, aunt, and I ended up together and sent to get some food for ourselves and the others at the hospital. We’d already spent the morning trying to find a bistro or diner without luck, and we were out of patience with my dad’s medical scare.

I prayed (and you know I don’t pray) for a deli or anything other than the ubiquitous fast food joints. But I found the car turning into the McDonald’s drive-thru. I realized that I had to order something, first of all because I knew that me and low blood sugar was a bad combination, and also because I my family was so stressed out, the last thing I wanted was them bitching/worrying about as getting me something to eat. So I ordered the new white-meat chicken strips, fries, and a diet Coke. And we sat there in the parking lot, in our SUV, eating our McDonald’s before heading back to the hospital. I remember it like it was yesterday. It was so strange for me, yet it was something that so many people do so often that they don’t even think about it.

What’s the point of all of this? I guess I just wanted to point out that I was raised like so many 80s kids, eating and liking McDonald’s. Did I turn out okay? I think so, but I still wish that I hadn’t eaten that food. I wish that my parents hadn’t let me have that junk, not that I am mad at them or blame them for doing it. Also, my transition to being a vegetarian Bay Area foodie has been a long and gradual one, involving lots of reading, education, and exposure to better and better food. I didn’t wake up one day and decide to be a snob about all of this. But I am now, and I’ll be damned if my kids, if I ever have them, will eat McDonald’s.


3 Comments so far
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Okay, okay, okay, I plead human. I am the mother who bribed my (this) child with McDonalds (with all the adverse affects described above, especially that it made the morning start later and even more stressful). Personally, I was never fond of McDonalds and celebrated when she outgrew McDonalds, but there it is, part of our American and our Hornline family culture. At same time, I am one of the primaries in teaching her to be the foodie she is today, making far more good choices than bad, and taking on leadership for improving how kids eat. As for wishing her parents had not allowed or taken her to McDonalds, may I point out what you already know … she is a very headstrong, and very smart aduld woman. That did not happen overnight either. And making McD’s off limits could have created a fight that I knew her good taste and good judgment would win more quickly and more effectively than “just say NO” to McDonalds. Let’s hear it for smart Mom’s whose children grow up even smarter. Better yet, that become leaders among their peers and for the next generation. Okay, smart mom’s are proud mom’s too, but not so much because of the mom, and what the mom did, but because of the kid and what the kid choose and championed. Which is the whole point of this. It’s about parents being parents, and indulging their kids with the right things like moderation and the chance to develop their own good judgment (even with some trial and error at McDonalds) rather than the parents overdulging in their own personal ease and laziness.

Comment by Marlene aka "Mom"

Thanks for chiming in, Mom! You have proved that parents really do have more long-term influence over children’s eating habits than corporate marketing.

I hope that by the time I have kids, the American culture will have changed enough since 1985 so that my kids won’t have the marketing influences that I had and so won’t even want to go to McD’s in the first place. And if they do, I hope that I can be mean and horrible enough to put my foot down and still say no. I know: wishful thinking. But I got to take advantage of being childless and naive, and make these sweeping statements now while I can.

Comment by Lauren

I commend you on your decision to not let your kids eat fast food. Two close and dear friends of mine have three beautiful kids, and when I go to visit I see left over happy meal cups and wrappers in the back of their SUV. When I see that I immediately get sick to my stomach. It’s 2013. The scientific studies and literature condemning processed food is practically common knowledge to anyone who can afford internet service. I know most parents out there are genuinely busy, but for those who know better, who have already learned just how dangerous this make believe food is, how could they ever subject their kids to it for the sake of convenience? I get it. I know it’s difficult to change. I know it requires practically living a different lifestyle. At the end of the day it is a DIFFERENT lifestyle. It takes serious thought and commitment, and it is without a doubt another FULL TIME JOB. Regardless, isn’t that part of being a responsible parent? What concerned, loving parent, as I imagine anyone would be, would ever want to see their child succumb to disease? We’re all led to believe in our society that fast food is something we should only eat rarely, that if eaten sparingly is not a matter of life or death, but that’s far from the truth. It’s PROCESSED food. It is a matter of LIFE or DEATH.

Comment by Dimitris

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