(This was written on May 15, 2010, but could not be published until now because of the incredible inconvenience of Boingo hotspots in lieu of free WiFi at O’Hare International Airport. Seriously.)
There’s something about a McDonald’s 10-piece chicken nugget meal that’s sort of comforting. Yes, I know what there could be in the chicken-food-pulp that makes the perfectly shaped little nuggets. But, for some reason, travelling just draws me to McDonald’s. When Shandhini (my sister) and I are making the 6.5-hour trip from Iowa City to Sioux Falls, we sometimes–well, frequently–indulge in McDonald’s. The 10-piece chicken nugget meal is my go-to meal. It was the first meal that I ate after becoming an American citizen, and I thought it was only appropriate that it be the last thing I eat before I travel for the first time on my new passport. I should clarify that by no means do I frequent fast food establishments—in fact, the idea sort of disgusts me for the most part, and I thoroughly enjoy cooking for myself. But, at times, especially on the road, fast food is all that will do it.
I spent quite a while deciding where to eat my last meal in the United States until August. In the food court near my departure gate, there is a Prairie Tap, a B-Smooth Smoothies & Salads, a Burrito Beach Mexican Grill, a Pizza Express, a McDonald’s, a ManchuWok, and an O’Brien’s Grill. I looked at the menu at Prairie Tap and because I think there’s something wrong with consuming beer in lieu of a (quite literally) solid meal, I moved on. B-smooth was of course out of the running from the beginning; what exactly about smoothies and salads screams Americana and/or filling meal? Burrito Beach, now there was a place I could stand behind. There are few things more American than the “Mexican Grill.” Unfortunately, this afternoon on the way to the airport, Shandhini and I decided to have lunch together, and I chose Panchero’s Mexican Grill. (For those of you from Iowa City, you know that there are few mexican grills better than Panch. For those of you who aren’t, take our word for it.) But, to be honest, I could’ve eaten Mexican again. Viable option No. 1. I’ve never been the biggest fan of Pizza, so I kept walking past Pizza Express. Ah, the beacon of all that is true and good: those iconic golden arches. I looked at the menu and, being the painfully indecisive person that I am, considered it viable option No. 2 and moved on. Places like ManchuWok suffer from the same syndrome of superficial cultural reappropriation that Mexican grills do. Battered pieces of chicken coated in phosphorescent pink “sweet and sour” sauce does not strike me as something that a Chinese person regularly makes at home, but nor is it altogether not delicious. Hence, viable option No. 3. O’Brien’s Grill was out of my $8 price range (because this was all the cash I had left), and was thus pretty easy to rule out.
Even though McDonald’s is about as multinational as corporations come (my Dad sometimes would take me and my sister out for McDonald’s on Fridays after school in South Africa, and I recall eating at McDonald’s in India, Italy, and elsewhere in Southern Africa as well) there is still something uniquely American about it—and part of me knew that I would likely not be wanting to eat McDonald’s in Germany. But, the deciding factor that put McDonald’s ahead of ManchuWok and Burrito Beach? The sign saying :
1 Snack Wrap…………………………..1.70
2 Snack Wraps for only..…………...3.40