I have a secret.
At least once a month, on my way home from drawing naked men, I stop at McDonald’s.
Yes. The Golden Arches.
Now that you have judged me for filth, and decided I am one of “them,” I’m going to beg a courtesy of you. I’m going to ask you to keep reading and I’m hoping you will.
Many people across the United States do not live near farms. Some do. Lots don’t. Most people in this country live nowhere near where their food is grown, and likely do not realize that most of our food in this country comes from a large, mechanized process in which all of the elements of what was formerly called “food” have been processed, and processed, and processed.
Most people in this country have never gotten up in the morning, walked into their backyard and down the stairs and around the corner to look into their tomato patch, spied a tomato covered in morning dew, reached out, plucked it off the vine unwashed, put it in their mouth, bit down and had the flavor of a vine-grown, ripe tomato explode on their palette.
I have. I did it this morning. I have the resources and the knowledge to maintain a tomato patch in the backyard. its a luxury not afforded to many people in today’s world. There’s seven different kinds of tomatoes, two kinds of tomatillos, and another five kinds of peppers growing, right now in my backyard. I’m not going to tell you about the kitchen herbs in pots, or the ornamental peppers that turned out to actually be edible and so fucking hot, one tiny pea-sized pepper has to be seeded and finely (so tiny, so fine) cut in order to be able to be withstood in two large vegetable omelets.
What I am going to say is this…
McDonalds is not the devil.
They are a business that employs a whole lot of people trying to make a profit in a business that squeezes them from every direction, and they are big enough to punch the squeezers out and sometimes they do.
That said, they run Ronald McDonald House.
What’s that? Its a place where families can stay, most times free of charge while their little kids, some of them with terminal diseases that most folks don’t even hear whispered by their doctors until they have lived long, productive lives, go in for care to attempt to save their lives. That little bit of jingle-change you throw in the cup holder in your car that vibrates as you drive down the road or turn up the base could go in that annoying little slot just under the window where you pay for your food.
Now let’s talk about that person, to whom I handed money to pay for my meal. She was energetic, and kind. She smiled. She was very polite and very helpful when I asked her to break a $20, and then told her I’d place an order of small french fries so she could break the $20 and not get into trouble for a policy fault. She checked the $20 for the security markers, and gave me my change. I put $10 into the little red slot, and she thanked me very sincerely for assisting a charity.
She, and the other folks at that McDonalds are VERY polite. You know where that comes from? Training. A good store rigorously trains its staff to understand that the most important person they meet that day is every. single. customer. We pay their wages. The understanding of that simple tenet is valuable and marks everyone who has ever put on one of those awful shirts and worked in one of those restaurants. It marks everyone who then moves on to better paying jobs in which exemplary customer service is the key to their success, whether they work at a bank, in the military, at a garage, or behind an Executive desk. The experience of being friendly in the face of cranky, work-tired, sometimes unwashed folks who want something to eat changes a person’s outlook and shows you every day that everybody needs to eat.
I eat at McDonalds because recently, they changed their pay policy so they will be paying their employees about $10 per hour (eventually and on average). Why is this important? If a company as large as McDonalds is willing to hear the idea that maybe the race to the lowest available labor cost is not good business, maybe others will take notice. Some companies, like Costco for example, knew this lesson from their founding and have carried the same idea into their stores today, against the advice of everyone on Wall Street, to pay their employees a wage that would allow the employee to feed themselves, their families, and maybe even have some money left over to buy some of the things sold in the stores where they work. Paying a fair wage means poor and middle class people have money to spend. That money supports the person, and their family, but it also supports the local economy. People can afford to send their kids to Karate Class. Get their nails and hair done. Buy a few plants for the garden. Those purchases support the community and create more ability for customers to come back and spend some of that money back at Costco, and in turn increase Costco’s sales.
McDonalds seems to be willing to give that idea a try. What can it hurt? People’s tastes are changing and people want to see value for their dollar, but they also want to feel that the food they are eating will not hurt them. People’s tastes are changing too. McDonalds is trying to change gradually so as not to freak out its customers, but lets just say maybe they need to try adding a couple of things to the menu, like whole grain buns, a mayonaise with lime and sriracha, and maybe one or two more cheese choices like provolone or pepper jack instead of just yellow american cheese here in the US. Or maybe some of the other regional choices offered in other countries might need to make an appearance here in the US (like maybe they should have done during World Cup and capitalized on the international coming together of nations around the global passion of fütbol (soccer.)
The final reason I eat at McDonalds at least once a month – aclimatization. That may not be a word, but let me explain the concept. If everything you eat is local, grain fed, organic, non GMO, non BGH product, all of it is grown on a planet with interlinked ecological and environmental systems. There are varying levels of contamination in your food. Accept it and move on, regardless of the resources you have, unless you live in a bio-dome, you will be effected by whatever else is in the environment where your food is grown. Secondly, if my economic circumstances changed, and I lost access to all the wonderful sources of food I have access to now because my means allow it, I’d have to eat regular, mass processed whatever I could afford to scrounge or buy on coupons or stretch my dollars around to purchase. If I don’t occasionally put a dipper into that food pool and take a deep drink, being forced to go back into that food pool if I suffered an economic shock wouldn’t have the best consequences on my body. It would be like putting economy gasoline in a car that’s built for high octane. The car would likely run, but there would be a whole lot of inefficiency, a whole lot of smelly exhaust, poor energy production, and eventually the systems would clog up.
But if every once in a while, I put a little economy gas in with the high-test, I might lose a little performance around the edges, but I wouldn’t do massive damage to the car. Small deviations instead of massive shocks. I think the body works the same way and sometimes you have to break from purity just a little to keep from potentially shocking your body in the future.
Same idea behind eating 1 meal at McDonalds out of 90 or so a month prepared with love and attention in my tiny little galley kitchen just outside of Washington DC.
Now why would I be worried about that? Well, with all the conflicts we are currently seeing around the world, and the rebirth of some pretty scary diseases that could go global if the wrong combinations of things happened at the same time, its probably not a bad idea to start to prepare for some shocks to our system, because they could happen.
Easily. and soon.
So, tomorrow I’ll go back to my routine. Tonight, I’ll eat my Quarter pounder, light mayo, extra lettuce, no onion, my order of French Fries (of which I’ll throw away half) and My large Dr. Pepper, of which I’ll also throw away half.