It’s my 20 year McAnniversary this month. April of 1989 was the last time I ate anything from McDonald’s. I don’t remember the exact date because it wasn’t really a marker at the time. My boyfriend and I had been to the Toronto Zoo where we visited the Americans pavilion. There were huge info walls explaining that the Amazon rain forest was disappearing as more and more land was cleared to make space for cattle farms – to raise beef for US and Canadian burger chains. At the time, McDonald’s was the only food available to purchase at the Toronto Zoo (how’s that for irony?) and I made the decision then and there to never eat at McD’s again.
The task has been a surprisingly easy one. Living in downtown Toronto, I have plenty of other options and am still boggled at how people can choose McD’s over a block full of great ethnic restaurants. There has been some pressure over the years, with many people not understanding or respecting my decision, but I’ve managed to stick to my promise to myself.
In those 20 years, I’ve been inside a McDonald’s exactly four times. Twice on road trips in the early 90s along highway 401 when I needed to use the washroom, back when the rest stops consisted of a service station and a fast food restaurant. I won’t eat their food, but I will pee in their toilets, thank you very much. Rest stops are now more like tiny malls with a donut shop and a magazine/variety store as well as the restaurant and gas station, so I no longer have to go inside the McDonald’s to pee, and can usually find a candy bar or something to eat if I’ve not bothered to pack a snack. The other times were to drop off toys for a holiday toy drive and once when I was meeting someone at Dundas subway station, which has its own McD’s outlet.
Oddly, I have touched a lot of McDonald’s food in the past few years. I live a block or so away from one (thankfully upwind) and we often find fries, or partially eaten burgers on the sidewalk in front of our building. With two dogs, this stuff doesn’t stay on the ground for long. After a few attempts to wrestle cold soggy burgers out of the dogs’ mouths when they find sidewalk snacks, I now usually just let them finish the stuff. The stank of special sauce seems to linger on skin, no matter how much you scrub at it. Which begs the question of why anyone would eat something that smelled like that.
I feel as if I need to do something to mark this anniversary. Something more than going out to a local restaurant and having a grass-fed beef burger on a red fife wheat bun with locally grown tomatoes and Ontario russet potato frites. I’d like to do something that makes a statement of some kind, but I’m still not sure what. I thought of hiring a local chef to set up a BBQ in front of my nearest McD’s and serve up the aforementioned grass-fed beef burgers, but I’d also prefer not to get a lot of people arrested in the process of marking this milestone. If I lived in France, I’d call José Bové and we could disassemble a McDonald’s as a political statement, but unfortunately there aren’t a lot of Canadians famous for taking on big food companies.
Still thinking… I’ve got a few more weeks to come up with an idea. Suggestions welcome. In the meantime, keep your eyes on your fries.