Wednesday, September 22, 2010

McDonald's in Beirut

Can you believe where I ended up getting a morning cup of coffee in Beirut? Of all places. Here's a photo through the plate glass window as my two sisters-in-law and me sip coffee. Ronald McDonald sitting on a bench looking out onto the Corniche and the Mediterranean Sea.
Well, my sisters-in-law were confused with me when I told them outside on the sidewalk that I don't go to McDonald's. They looked perplexed but didn't say anything. They both have young children and regularly go to McDonald's. So, there we stood, sun beating down on us, on the sidewalk, discussing our options.

I said, "I haven’t even gone to a McDonald’s in Canada since the early '90s. I don't do fast food chains."

"Well, where should we go, then?" asked one of my sisters-in-law, adjusting her scarf. The sun beat down and the cars sped by. It was only morning and we were already feeling sweaty and sticky. We walked a bit more and looked for another place, but there didn't seem to be any coffee shop close by.
We asked the guy in front of the Hard Rock if they serve American style coffee. He said, yes, but we don't open for another 45 minutes. He went back to smoking.

We walked some more.

"I'm getting really hot," said my sister-in-law who doesn't like to walk around too much, sweat beading her brow.

"The coffee's not that bad at McDonald's," my other sister-in-law said, adjusting the strap of her bag and her sunglasses.

My young niece and nephew tugged at their mother's hands and said in Arabic, Mama! When are we going to McDonald's?

"OK. Whatever," I said. "OK, so we go to McDonald's. What the hell. How many other people can say that one of their firsts in Beirut is McDonald's!"

We all laughed, and the children ran ahead.

As we filed through the door at McDonald's in Beirut, I thought that the last time I went to a McDonald's was when my husband and I travelled out west to Vancouver with our then-young children. My sister-in-law, Cheryl, and I, took all the kids (her three boys and my two boys and daughter) to the Imax theatre (which is now called the Omnimax Theatre). I can't remember what we watched, but I do remember that she drove to McDonald's afterwards. As she parked the car, I said, "well, I don't go to McDonald's. I don't take my kids to McDonald's," but here we all were, a carload of antsy, hungry kids, my sister-in-law looking with puzzlement at me and the kids all shouting and clamouring for McDonald's, including my kids who only went to McDonald's for friends' birthday parties. So, what to do? We ended up at McDonald's.

It was sort of like that in Beirut. What to do?
We had first gone into a restaurant across the street and just a bit down the street from McDonald's. The tables were set in white linens, the wind blew in from the Mediterranean, and there was a great view of the waterfront skyline and the Corniche, but when we looked at the menu, there was no American coffee. We asked the waiter as he rushed by us if they had American coffee. He said no. We sat and waited to be served. We thought, what the hell. We got up and left.
And that's how we ended up at McDonald's in Beirut.


marja-leena said...

Heh, love this story. Reminds me of the time we were in Berlin ten years ago. Bemoaning the expensive breakfasts and expensive coffee and late openings of the cafes near us, we decided to go to a nearby McD's. The coffee, orange juice and eggs were good but daughter was disgusted with us. She used to get sick on their food as a kid so stopped going years ago until then. Another time, in Rome husband and I needed to find a washroom so went into a fancy tiled McD's for ice cream and the most impressively decorated and very clean facilities.

Ari said...

You seem to have a very pharisaical opinion about McD's. In Finland some very wealthy people don,t go to McD's because they can meet poor people there. I use to eat very often in McD's. It's products( ground beef, bread, coffee, ice cream, salads) are very good and far from junk food. Mc's coffee and ice cream may cost two euros, but in coffee shops from six to ten euros. That is why I go to McD's whereever I go.

northshorewoman said...

Hello ML,

Your experiences with McD's and travelling are interesting! I am sure there is a whole book out there of stories like ours.


McDonald's in North America can't be compared to other places. Here, fast food is a national sickness, literally making people obese and unhealthy, never mind the removal of people from their local food sources and restaurants. Of course it is also a class thing -- but McD's here is not that cheap, and there is lots of burger competition -- but for me, I buy and eat local meat, not factory farmed frozen patties from who knows what feedlot. I am sure that how McDonald's in Finland fits into the north american model has its differences (and similarities, too) but my point of view comes from the question of food production, the corporate food industry, and local economies and health.

Ari said...

Most of the food we can buy from shops is from enormous farms. A big farm is like a big factory: 5000 cows, area thousands of square miles, machinery is very very expensive. Wheat or corn or other plants are gene manipulated. Everything must be effective, fertilisers are chemically very complicated. This is our local meat nowadays, and when we eat food like this today, we are vampires or monsters tomorrow.

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