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Very Foreign Travel

May 25, 2018

Last night was a super late night, and I can’t wait to tell you all about the Chef’s Challenge that  serves as the annual fundraiser for Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Capital Region. Not only was it a fun and delicious event, but I learned a lot.

Still, time seems to be my enemy these days.

Which is just one reason why I’m thankful for Emily L who keeps on submitting some stimulating guest posts. While I may not always agree with them, and my posting of them is not an endorsement of her positions, I think it’s a great idea to share different points of view.

Right now though, Emily L is out of the country. She does a fair bit of foreign travel. I like traveling abroad because of the food. When I was in Paris, I saw people inside a McDonald’s there and it kind of broke my heart. In Beijing, the golden arches had the longest line of any restaurant that I saw, and I was totally perplexed by how many KFCs were scattered around the city.

Emily has some thoughts on the matter that are also foreign to me. I’ll let her explain.

Some comments on one of my recent blog posts has me pondering the role of national fast food chain restaurants and regionality. While I don’t usually frequent these establishments, whenever I visit a foreign country or a new place, I stop in to a McDonalds.

Why? Well besides the clean bathrooms and free wifi (great advice from my pilot cousin David), I believe one of the best ways to understand how the local population eats is how they embrace and change a set standard ‘American’ menu.

I don’t usually order food. But I do compare how they prepare food, the presentation, and the speciality items only available in that area. In India, they had separate fryers for meat and none-meat dishes. In France, the McDonalds had macarons. In Peru, almost every dish had corn in it. In Japan, mayo was featured heavily on all of the burgers. In Spain, they serve beer. Seeing how each of these countries changed the standard menu gives me a new persecutive on food culture of that area. In addition, it is a good introduction of the importance of trying new foods to less adventurous eaters since it is still within a brand they recognize.

So Capital Region, tell me your fast food regional specialities. How do you put your touch on the standard menu? Do you serve the illusive lobster roll at your McDonalds? What stands apart at your Dairy Queen?

And yes Steve. I did eat at the Taco Bell in Tokyo. And I have no regrets (but my stomach did).

Okay. Well, I’ll start. Yes! We do sometimes get the McDonald’s lobster roll. I enjoy it, even though I would rather eat half of a better lobster roll. We’ll have to keep a lookout to see if we’ll get it again this year. Fingers crossed.

When it comes to fast food, I think one of the other regional differences we have here are our fish fry places. Especially the fact that at Ted’s the default sauce option is chili sauce, which as far as I can tell is mostly ketchup mixed with relish. And of course, our little three inch wieners.

But maybe there’s some stuff I’m missing. Any thoughts?

7 Comments leave one →
  1. May 25, 2018 9:54 am

    If you want to understand how a local population eats, you go to McDonald’s? In your mind, McDonald’s is somehow a judge of what fare locals favor?

    How many McDonald’s in the Captial Region serve fried mozz with melba? How many serve mini hot dogs, or our regional take on fish fry? How many McDonald’s serve Italian-American fare, which is immensely popular in our area? Or buffalo wings, or pizza, both of which are also immensely popular here.

    I’m also curious how many McDonald’s in Utica serve Utica greens, or chicken riggies, or tomato pie.

    I’ll admit I find it interesting how multinational chains tailor their menus to local tastes, but I would never consider them an authority on local food culture. To do so leaves one with a stunted, short-sighted view of what locals eat.

    • May 25, 2018 11:38 am

      I enjoy reading Emily’s posts. But I do disagree, and feel the need to play Devil’s advocate, it’s in no way personal. I hope she’ll join us at a Yelp event sometime so that we can discuss these things over a beer.

    • Joe Lynch permalink
      May 27, 2018 8:32 pm

      Hmmm, maybe you missed her point here. She wasn’t expecting McDonalds to serve the local dishes, but was trying to show how a worldwide corporation can take one of their standard products and add something to it or adapt it in some way to make it appeal to local or regional tastes.
      I enjoy visiting United States chains as well when I travel. Very interesting to see how their menus vary between countries.
      While I was in Toledo, Spain a few years ago I stopped in a McDonalds and saw a sandwich that they called the “McIberia”. Not speaking Spanish, I tried to figure out what it was from the description on the menu, and thought that I’d be getting a ham & cheese sandwich, but it turned out to be two sausage patties and cheese on a little French bread.
      Just interesting to see what they can do to fit in and adapt.

      • Emily Lang permalink
        May 28, 2018 6:28 am

        Hi Steve!
        I don’t disagree with you. But I think we also have to understand the approachability of McDonalds. Not everyone is as adventurous as us. McDonalds can be a gateway. If having red bean paste in a Chinese McDonalds gets someone to try steamed buns, I would consider that a success.
        You have to meet people sometimes where their food expectations are in order for them to get comfortable with exploring. McDonalds can help facilitate that idea of food exploration.

  2. May 25, 2018 10:26 am

    Guest posts? Oh boy, give me a topic. I’ll spice this place up…

  3. May 26, 2018 12:06 am

    I have been to a McDonalds in France. It was back in the late 80s. While a French Big Mac resembled and American Big Mac, it was significantly better. Beef was better. Toppings were better and much fresher. They also served beer.

    I can see where if one is traveling for 7 days, there is no time for a stop a McDonalds. But you are overseas for awhile, I could definitely see longing for a taste of home. And if you’ve never been to the US, I could definitely understand someone from another country being curious about McDonalds.

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