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When in England, don’t eat as the English do

By Jason Offutt

Author’s note: In Spring 2013, I spent three and a half weeks teaching in the UK. This is one in an amazingly sporadic series exploring my time there.

The feeling was a little weird, like waking from a fuzzy afternoon nap to find my brain floating about two feet to the left. It was the McDonald’s Restaurant’s fault. It had to be, even though I didn’t do anything crazy like eat there; I just walked by.
The Golden Arches hung on the front of the restaurant, the customary yellow-upon-red scheme as normal to me as my face in the mirror. But the slim brick building wedged between a moneychanger/souvenir shop (“Best Rates! Euro! American! I (Heart) London shirts, cheap!”) and the Bolivian consulate (or maybe restaurant. I can’t read Aymaran), was probably 500 years old. Things 500 years old in the States are dug up by archeologists and put in museums; in the U.K. people buy Big Macs in them.
I think this is what bothered me: The McDonald’s Restaurant wasn’t in its natural environment.
The restaurant chain, which began as a barbecue joint in Monrovia, Calif., in 1937 (offering more than 20 barbecue items on its menu), moved to San Bernadino, Calif., in 1948 and became a hamburger, French fry and milkshake drive-in.
Mixer salesman Ray Kroc bought franchising rights to the restaurant in 1955 and, 58 years later America is the second fattest country in the world (thank you, Mexico).
The first McDonald’s sat on the side of a highway. That’s where McDonald’s are supposed to be, on busy sidewalk-free roadways Americans have to drive to. This restaurant in London was right on the pavement where just anyone could walk in, which is a bit careless of the planning and zoning department.

For the complete story, see the July 14 print edition of the Richmond News.

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