We were driving along Old Fort Road the other day, when Three-year-old Ariel piped up, “Hey, there’s Donald! Let’s get tips!”
It took me another block or two to realize that we’d just passed the Golden Arches, and that somebody (probably his grandfather) has obviously been taking Ariel there for chips.
I’m no huge fan of McDonalds. I think their décor is tacky, their chips taste like sawdust, and I distrust any meal that can be put together in the time it takes to drive the three metres from one drive-thru window to another.
I’m not alone. Global pressure groups have been formed to bring down the junk food giant. One of the most successful movements was founded nearly three decades ago by Italian journo and foodie Carlo Petrini, who became incensed when a McDonalds opened near the Spanish Steps in Rome in 1986. His concern was partly aesthetic, but he also resented every culinary indiscretion that McDonald’s stood for. In fact, he was so affronted that he founded the Slow Food Movement, an international nonprofit organization promoting a diet based on “good, clean and fair food for all”.
I think there’s much to be said for the values of a movement like this. They are good, traditional values enshrined in most of the world’s venerable cultures. Others clearly agree: today the Slow Food movement boasts a network of 100,000 members in 153 countries (including nine chapters South Africa).
Boo, fast food!
We all know now that fast food is unhealthy. It’s usually seething with refined flour, saturated fat, and sugar. This kind of diet is one of the largest contributing factors to the soaring rates of obesity and heart disease in the modern world. Anyone who needs further convincing should watch Morgan Spurlock’s 2004 documentary “Supersize Me”, in which he eats only McDonalds meals for a month and experiences cholesterol spikes, mood-swings, lethargy, headaches, heart palpitations, and gains over 11kg.
And it’s not just bad for our bodies. The now-infamous “McLibel” trial found that – despite the fast food Goliath’s protestations and cries of slander – the company not only endangered the health of their customers, but that they also exploited children through their targeted and misleading advertising, caused unnecessary cruelty to animals through their farming and sourcing practices, and exploited their workers by underpaying them. Not very nice, and definitely not Veggietot values.
To be fair, McDonalds took this one on the chin for the entire global team of fast food joints. Most of the big names that offer plastic toys with their meals or free-delivery-within-the-hour-or-your-pizza’s-free, argues Petrini, threaten the viability of traditional cuisines. Limited, standardized menus represent the loss of cultural individuality on which ethnic food has always been prized.
Have some culinary pride, Man!
The Slow Movement was founded by concerned citizens who were worried about traditional foods disappearing under a mountain of branded polystyrene boxes. Their aim is to promote sustainability and national pride in these cuisines.
But it’s not just about food. It’s about cultivating local cultural pride and community involvement. It’s about sustainable environmental practices that don’t exploit the land, the indigenous ecosystem, or those who work within it. It’s about health. It’s about joy. It’s about life.
Join the movement
So no, McDonalds is not the root of all evil. But it’s not very good for us, either. We need to cut back on fast food and fast life – they’re not good for our souls.
So join the movement. Slow down. Smell the roses. Then sit back and enjoy a delicious, nutritious, environmentally ethical, locally produced, bio-diverse and ecologically sustainable, culturally sensitive snack. And remind me to chat to Grandpa.
For more information on the Slow Movement, visit www.slowfood.com. For more of my inner mental ramblings, subscribe to this blog (hit the SUBSCRIBE button above).