Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Burger Battle Wars. Or: McDonald's in France

I normally avoid lurking by fast food joints. I don't do it because I have a "holier-than-thou" perspective on the matter. I do it because I know better. While it tastes good, fast food is very fattening and addicting, factors which make it difficult for me to stop eating it. I've also read Eric Schlosser's eye-opening Fast Food Nation; that book is enough to make you put down those cardboard fries you unwittingly ingest. In the States, a good percentage of my earnings went into financing McDonald's double quarter pounders with cheese...and it showed on my body, too.

When I was in my Freshman year at college, I was determined to change my overall lifestyle and pretty much swore off all fast food joints. I still had an occasional lapse to eat out with a friend, but at least I no longer craved going to these places on a weekly (sometimes daily) basis. I've kept this up for quite a few years, really.

However, even my French co-workers advised me that I should at least try eating at a French McDonald's once so I could have a first-hand experience at seeing the differences from the American ones. It was already the month of May, and I had only a few days to spare before I hopped back on a plane to Miami. I figured that after living for seven months in France, I could easily walk into a Macdo and order a meal without being suspected of being an American.

Dijon, being the capital of la Bourgogne, has 3 of them. It seems that only the larger French cities have Macdos; they are non-existent in small villages and towns. As I noticed, Macdo seems to be popular with the teenaged/college aged crowd. There is one conveniently located near the university and the Toison d'or mall, Dijon's largest mall.

I decided to go to the latter.

Curiosity made me wonder what were the French versions of supersizing. I had been expecting McDonald's to employ a French equivalent. Maybe it was also Supersize? Perhaps supertaille? Extra Grand? Super gros cul?

I asked my roommate about it.

She wrote it down.

"Best Of."

I suppose that it wasn't fair for me to ask her the complexities of improper use of English grammar. That isn't the only grammatical issue that drove me up the wall, by the way. I understand the notion that foreigners view English as a cool language, yet the French somehow think it's a wonderful idea to make a noun sound even more English by placing a possessive apostrophe and an extra S when it doesn't need one. Donut's, Doot's, Burger's, McDonald's (oh, that one already had the apostrophe). My English major senses violently made my jaw twitch. The burger's what? The donut's what? Its chocolate glaze, perhaps? Its gaping hole?

Anyway, I went to the Toison d'Or mall where I was greeted by the familiar yellow M with a green background. The French seem to prefer green to red...

Once in front of the counter, I scanned the pictures grafted above the cashier's head and placed my order. I've never liked Big Macs and I never will. The quarter pounder was no where to be seen. I remember seeing instead something called the Royal Cheese which resembled the sandwich. I chose to order a Royal Deluxe. It looked like a quarter pounder that was forcibly under attack by lettuce and tomatoes to make it slightly healthier. After seven months of living in France, I was ready to finally ask for a meal.

And she was right. French McDonald's doesn't have numbered menus. You have to order the actual sandwich and then state if you want fries and a drink. I could even buy a beer with my burger if I wanted. Apparently, ordering at McDonald's is the best way to smoke out an American because they are way too used to the ordering system to know their own good. I apologized to the attendant with my cheeks flushed with shame.

In reality, the sandwich tasted more to me like the McDonald's food I had in Cartagena, Colombia rather than the one in my neighborhood. The mustard, however, was distinctly the Dijonnaise kind (though not as nostril-burning strong as it normally tastes).

I suppose that le meilleur de features the worst belief of all American fast food eating mantras: ginormous portions are better.

Of course, "ginormous" at a French Macdo means "slightly larger than a Happy Meal." I had the impression that I was sitting down to an imaginary mice tea party complete with cardboard French fries. The double cheeseburger that I see displayed on the $1 menus in Miami costs a little over two euros in Dijon. The apple pies are not cheap, either. As my experience showed, you leave a French McDonald's feeling quite dissatisfied and just a bit hungry.

I guess you have some questions to ask me.

What is your favorite fast food place in France?

Well, it's definitely not McDonald's.

Is it its Belgian competitor, Quick Burger?

Eh, Quick is not too bad, but their advertisements do drive me up the wall. It has gotten to the point that if I see another one of their "English" language posters with the words annoyingly translated into French hanging at the Divia bus stops, I just might take a picture and submit it to Engrish.com.

Okaaaaaaay. Then, which is it, dang it?

My honest answer is the Turkish sandwich kebab with a side of frites (or just kebab frites).

This is what one looks like:

I love these things. They are cheap-ish and very filling, but I try not to eat them too often. It is said that one kebab frites contains the caloric allotment of one full day! Dijon has several "kebaberies" in the Centre Ville, all vying for someone to buy their sandwiches. And I've tried the kebabs at a few places. My favorite kebaberie happens to be one called Royal Sandwich, located on Rue de la Liberté and not too far from Café les Grands Duc. I specify where it is because there are like five (yes, 5) places that sell kebabs on said street, one of which's food made me throw up a bit. I once said to a friend that there are probably more kebaberies in Dijon than there are cafés.

For those who say "Oh, you've got to try Ekin Kebab on Avenue du Maréchal Foch! The service is quick and they make their own bread! Once you eat there, you'll never go back!"

I've eaten there. I've still gone back to Royal Sandwich. Sorry.

In short, when I am in France, I don't eat Macdo. I am more likely to feast on a kebab frites with mayonnaise...yum!

Barb the French Bean


  1. Kebab - Only good when drunk.
    McDs - Always awful

  2. Oh...I noticed the mayo on the side for the frites.

    Now I'm hungry and I rarely eat fast food either!

  3. Fizzee: I've been told the kebabs in England have a different taste than the ones in France. So said my roommate.

    Kate: I know, right? ^.^

    I really want to have a kebab frites...*drools*

    -French Bean

  4. Haha, very nice! Great Blog!

  5. That is a great post! I don't eat McDonald's but I too went through an addicted phase! I loved the whole thing about ordering by the number (combos) and the apostrophe "s" at the end of everything. Great blog article's!

  6. pics are nice....though cant understand the language....
    my blog

  7. I've never really liked fast food places like McDonald's. People say it tastes good, but...I beg to differ. Perhaps it's from eating homemade meals all my life, but I could NEVER find it to taste good. So...bland...and plain...meat has no flavor...vegetables are limp...and there isn't enough other stuff on the sandwiches to make them palatable.

  8. Hi Barb, so glad you came by to visit me! I'm new to your blog and I've found it very interesting. You have a unique posting style. Love your cartoons!

  9. Melody: Yeah, to this day, I still wonder what caused me to say "#6" when there was NO numbered combos. I think that I must have counted the number of pictures, reached the sixth photo and thought "oh, that must be the number six." :-P

    Kunjan: thanks for visiting, but I do please ask that you do not leave your blog's link in the comments. It's enough with you commenting ^.^

    RandomRambler: I too am used to homecooked meals, but my childhood was also supplied by happy meals. The damage has been done; even to this day, if I get a whiff of McDonald's food, I start to drool.

    Marsha: Welcome and thank you! ^.^ I saw your blog yesterday and loved that flower photo. It really inspired me...

    -French Bean

  10. Sadness. I dont want to have to live in France for six months knowing there wont be a McDonalds ten inutes from me. Stupid Ireland turning into America!


Apparently, leaving comments on this blog is a hit-or-miss game of Russian roulette: you are either lucky and can comment away, or you are required to log in when the settings are CLEARLY set to allow trouble-free commenting (sorry 'bout that, folks). If anything, the Facebook page is always a viable option. :) -Barb