My McBite


My first American solo supper was a big Whopper, at the time, sold by the leading Burger King.

The next day, I sampled McDonald known for its fries. You may say, I got myself into a blind-fold test not unlike Coke vs Pepsi tasting.

To this day, my number-one choice would be In-and-Out. But seeing McDonald opening its first restaurant in Vietnam, the taste of my first McBite brings back warm memories. Of friendship and winter cold, of people who care for total strangers in Happy Valley (petition to change Beaver Stadium to Paterno Field now surpassed 61,000 designed goal mark).

Penn State in the mid-70’s was the place to be: fast football, fast food with no fast lane. None of us would think of driving “fast and furious”. Just walk and jog, any time of the day and night. You would have to be really anti-social to not land a date on the weekend. We were “trapped” there in the valley.

Guess where we would go for a bite off-campus? Hardees, Roy Rogers, Arby’s, Burger King and of course, McDonald.

Who would have guessed with automation and standardization that the last has become first? Not a bad legacy for a traveling milk-shake machine man from Oak Brook, IL. Later, I traveled the same trail, going West. From suburban Chicago graduate school over San Bernardino ” until the sun comes up from Santa Monica”.

I have  had my shares of McBite, on road trips or just to baby-sit generations of kids in my family: niece and daughters.

Vietnam will get its first McBite after this year’s Tet. The once forbidden foods will taste so divine.

It’s not the burger nor the fries. It’s the culture of efficiency, cleanliness and consistency across the franchising empire.

Doing the same thing 10,000 times. Bruce Lee would have been scared (of someone practicing the same kick 10,000 times).

It all started with identifying and solving a problem: milkshake takes time and slows down the fast-food delivery process.

America’s beat generation was into outdoors (Happy Days): outdoor movies, outdoor picnic (station wagon) and outdoor concert.

Mr Kroc spotted an opportunity and zoomed in on it. The rest was history.

You bet I will get my first McBite when it finally arrives here in Saigon. And I won’t even wait to be asked “You want fries with it?”

(As of this edit, promise said, promise kept. See My McBite pt II VN).

Out here, like last night, Saigon young demographic was into outdoor cruising (on motorbike) as well. And McDonald here promises “drive through”. I think they meant “ride through”. Whichever way, the young patrons should know that they will be enjoying their first taste of milkshake, which started it all.  There is no turning back once automation and standardization took over. Algorithm and formula, mechanical precision and predictability. All hallmarks of 21-century society living on technique.

Taste just happens to be a side order. Bonjour McDonald, bye-bye  memory. The future is officially here. Turn back not, just like the time when I had my first McBite. Deep down inside, I knew it’s symbolic but nonetheless solid that my life has taken a turn for good. It’s that melodramatic. But you have to understand the context of  spending winter cold Christmas alone in Happy Valley, PA.

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