Monday, November 19, 2007

McIndia

On a recent Sunday, Ben and I went to Lajpat Nagar market to buy a few belongings for Aaron’s visit. We made a copy of our house key, tried our meek bargaining skills for a sofa bed, and bought new sheets for the arrival of Ben’s younger brother. By 1 p.m. we were hungry, and our eyes caught glimpse of the golden arches at the same time

By lunchtime, McDonalds was filled. Thirty or so patrons nibbled on french-fries, sipped on milkshakes, and one or two kids even pointed at Ben thinking a real live Ronald McDonald had walked into their favorite restaurant. One woman tried to get a ketchup stain out of her cream-colored sari by spitting into her napkin and assiduously rubbing the paper cloth against her knee.

We were shocked to see that there were no super-size-me options. Ben immediately began to scan the menu for the biggest looking item. He found it: the Maharaja Mac, a double decker chicken sandwich. In India, we realized, there’s something missing at the world’s largest fast food giant: hamburgers. Besides chicken, India’s burgers are 100% vegetarian. A “burger” comprised of a deep fried patty is filled with potatoes, peas, carrots, and some sort of anonymous spice (It’s called the Mc Aloo Tikki burger). The cost: 50 cents.

Fast food here, is not so fast. We waited at least 15 minutes for our sandwiches (I settled for the paneer (cheese) salsa wrap). The meal also comes complete with security guards. When a barefooted child approached Ben for a McHandout, a guard quickly escorted her out of the restaurant. He seemed to appear out of nowhere.

Apparently, McDonalds is a popular place to go on a date. The few McDonalds that I’ve been to are teeming with 20-somethings holding hands, nestled in a booth while staring lovingly at each other over their sesame seed buns and vanilla ice cream cones.

Overall, the paneer salsa wrap tasted like cardboard food product, but maybe I need to give it another chance. Afterall, McDonalds has only been in India for about 10 years.

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