On Friday night at 8:51pm, exactly, I was waiting in the car at the McDonald’s drive-in on the A9, about fifty miles from Salzburg. Oliver and I, off for a weekend in Austria with Caro and Jan in tow, had stopped for refueling at our regular place. Because this is the only time I’ll let him buy and consume American fast food in my presence, Oliver really looks forward to these drives.
At 8:58 his future visits to the Temple of the Golden Arches were cast in shadows of serious doubt.
I stopped going to burger joints at 16 when I became a vegetarian until the first day of my first visit to see him six years ago, when Oliver took me into this same McDonalds. That day I was reluctant, then shocked and then totally won over. Initially I’d been resigned to stealing his French fries right up until he showed me the spot on the menu that translated to “Veggie Mac”. It was like finding the mythical easy-to-program VCR: I’d always heard that this thing existed but never found a single person who could say they’d actually had a veggie burger at McDonalds.
McD’s had found a way to let me have my cake and eat it too, I was lovin’ it!
Even better was the fact that no one ordered this thing. It was never sitting under the heat lamp. They always had to make it to order, especially for yours truly. A vegetarian being catered to in the mecca of meat! Individual service at a fast food chain, with the freshest ingredients and not a shred of wilted lettuce? Heaven.
That first visit, the manager of the store apologized for making us wait, and gave us cappuccinos for our trouble, making it two discoveries in one day: veggie burgers and good coffee could be had at McDonalds of all places.
Shock and awe, and oh so tasty. I was converted.
Back in the US, I couldn’t stop saying nice things about Euro McDonalds and its superiority to its American tawdry cousin. Europeans had higher standards, and when held to it, McDonalds delivered. The junkfood peasants of America should revolt and demand the same. On and on I babbled the nonsense of the truly born again. I was certain this was a sign of things to come, it was just a matter of time before vegans and fruitarians would also be welcomed back into the mainstream. The culinary marginalization was coming to an end.
Like many intense loves and grandiose illusions, this one couldn’t last.
I should have seen the signs in the freshness of the tomato slices in my burger.
Sitting in the car on the road to Salzburg, I read the menu through the window. I read it twice. My heart sank. They must have caught on. Someone finally realized I was the only one buying the damn things and cut their losses.
In the days of neurological disease and deadly flu viruses, McDonalds must have decided that they had to put up an undivided front and remove everything that could cast doubt on the their cash cow patties.
The Gemuese-Mac (aka veggie burger) is no longer.
Some great ideas are just before their time. I can accept that. But when they cut me loose, McDonalds also cut ties to every meat-eater around me, most importantly the one sleeping next to me as I write this (as yet unsuspecting of his fate). Let your knees commence shaking, McDonalds management! Sell your stock, investors! I’m not suffering alone.
I’m taking everyone with me, all the way to the chip aisle at the gas station or the picnic hamper in the cooler. Let’s see how long you can handle the drop in sales.
And let that be a lesson to you.