Sunday, August 2, 2009

Baa da pa pa paaaa

I paid my first-ever visit to an Indian McDonald's last week for lunch. It was Sagar (the youngster from Jersey who has been visiting DSC)'s last day in Ahmedabad and like any American teen he was psyched about a golden-arched last meal. I was less than enthused because I had planned on never eating at a McDonald's again in my life about 10 years ago. But I thought the experience would be educational. Here are some random thoughts/observations:
  • When I first walked in, I noticed two things: One, that it smelled like any McDonald's I had ever been too (the best I could come up with to describe that smell is 'engineered appetizing'); and two, that 95% of the patrons were 20 years-old or younger. So much for a "family restaurant" as the sign indicated out front.
  • Just as we got between the order line's zig-zagging bars, we were greeted by a guy with a pen and pad to take our order, perfectly demonstrating the "so much cheap labor we don't know what to do with it" phenomenon I discussed last year. Giving our order to him saved us roughly 3 seconds compared to talking to the dude at the register we were just walking up to. (Quick Tangent: this phenomenon is incredibly robust. The other place I've seen it play out recently to my deep chagrin is at the gym, where trainers just wander around aimlessly waiting for you to do a set so they can get up real close to give unsolicited spots, and yell things like "Come On!", "Yeaaaa!" and "Light Weight!" and then give you advice about keeping your back straight and moving your hands up on the bar. It's really been flustering me).
  • I ordered a McVeggie burger, fries, and soda value meal (Rs. 100). A few reactions: first, the fries really taste authentic... I got the sense that they go out of their way to create a perfectly replicated eating experience. So much so that the coke is also American, i.e. it was sweetened with corn instead of sugar (a la Thums Up). Finally, the burger was really confusing. The patty was spiced up with Indian masalas, but it was on an American bun with mayo and ketchup and lettuce and American-style fake cheese. Just a bizarre combination.
  • At the table next to us a young woman was tying Rakhis on two of her "brothers". A few minutes later we see two girls in full saris walk out of a back room where there was a private party going on. All in this shiny beacon of Americana. Is there a term for this? Culture crash? Tradition juxtaposition? East melts West?
  • Overall I thought the meal was OK, probably a solid D+, but I felt horrible after. It was like I ate a tray full of empty calories (even though I probably ate a ton of calories). Unwholesome would be the one word description.
I'm lovin it!!