Billions and Billions of McRice Burgers Served? | Arts & Culture | Smithsonian

Billions and Billions of McRice Burgers Served?

There's a classic scene in the beginning of Pulp Fiction, when John Travolta's character tells Samuel L. Jackson's character that, in France, you can buy a beer at McDonald's, and that they call a Quarter Pounder with cheese a "Royale with cheese."He could have kept going, as a photo gallery of McD...

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There's a classic scene in the beginning of Pulp Fiction, when John Travolta's character tells Samuel L. Jackson's character that, in France, you can buy a beer at McDonald's, and that they call a Quarter Pounder with cheese a "Royale with cheese."

He could have kept going, as a photo gallery of McDonald's menu items around the world on the Food Network site and the occasional viral e-mail attest: In Asia you can get a McRice Burger, with a chicken or beef patty sandwiched between rice cakes instead of a bun. McPoutine is on the fast-food menu in Quebec, where the regional midnight snack of choice is french fries smothered in cheese curds and gravy (I live about two hours south of Montreal, and our local A&W stand also sells fries with cheese curds). The McTurco is, predictably, the regional offering in Turkey—two burger patties with hot pepper sauce in a fried pita, the McDonald's take on a kebab. The phenomenally successful business' international modus operandi seems to be: Take the regional specialty, try to recreate it using mostly ingredients already used in other menu items and slap a "Mc" onto it.

I've never been a fan of McDonald's (except for their french fries, which I indulge in about once or twice a year—and no, I haven't read Fast Food Nation and I don't know what they add to make the fries so tasty, so don't ruin it for me) or fast food in general. But, occasionally, when in another country, it's interesting to see not only a culture's haute cuisine but what locals eat when they're on the go. Even before McDonald's and other chains went global, most cultures had their version of fast food, if usually on a more mom-and-pop level.

Britain and Ireland have fish and chips. In Scotland, where I lived briefly, the chippers also sold battered (and deep-fried, of course) sausages. (Here's a question for the nutritionists: if a battered sausage is deep fried in canola or olive oil, does the good cholesterol counteract the bad cholesterol? I'm guessing no.) Italy has panini and pizza, though it's nothing like the slices familiar to most Americans. In Holland, raw herring with onions (followed, I hope, by some Altoids) is a favorite fast food.

But the golden arches is, by far, the most dominant player in the global fast-food market. A stunning visualization of the chain's ubiquity, at least in the United States, is a  map posted on the blog Weather Sealed that shows the distribution of McDonald's locations. Blogger Stephen Von Worley created the map to determine the "McFarthest Spot." He concluded that a point between two tiny hamlets in the Dakotas, 145 miles by car to the nearest Mickey D's, was the winner (or loser, I suppose, depending on your perspective).

I am proud to report that my home, the Adirondack Park, rated a mention for its "McSparseness." These 6 million acres (unusual among state parks for including both private and public land) contain, as near as I can determine, a total of 5 McDonald's.
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About Lisa Bramen
Lisa Bramen

Lisa Bramen was a frequent contributor to Smithsonian.com's Food and Think blog. She is based in northern New York and is also an associate editor at Adirondack Life magazine.

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