SO MCDONALD’S IS opening its first vegetarian restaurant? How nice! Could the fast food chain finally be making a gesture to all us vegetarians? Maybe it’s encouraging a healthier lifestyle and moving some of its operations to a greener, more sustainable, not to mention animal-friendly level?
No, I’m afraid not. In a deeply cynical move, Maccers has announced that this vege version of the Golden Arches will open in 2013 near the Golden Temple in the Sikh holy city of Amritsar in northern India. Why there? Well, the local religious authorities forbid consumption of meat at the shrine, so Maccers, not to be deterred and totally unwilling to forgo any revenue, decided to go vege.
That’s pretty darn feeble. I’ll bet good money that this won’t be the first vegetarian Maccers in India (apparently there’s already a second one mooted near another shrine). With over a billion people wandering around the country, just think of all those vegetarians spending all their money somewhere else. That’s just not acceptable to the bean-counters sitting deep in the bowels of the mega-corporate head office; they’ll make a plan to get hold of all that sweet meat-free moolah, which explains why 50 percent of the Indian menu is already meat free.
Let’s be honest, this isn’t the end of the world. It’s just another big corporate finding a way to corner a market that they’re currently missing out on. It won’t make a whit of difference on a global scale unless perhaps if you care to dig into the GMO side of things, but that’s another story.
Still, any vegetarian or vegan who spends their money in this, or any one of the other soon-to-follow VegeDonald’s is kidding himself/herself. What are the odds of Maccers actually creating vegetarian food that’s really tasty or wholesome? Not great, even considering that the food will be adjusted to local tastes. Then there’s the fact that the money goes into the wider corporate coffers, not to the “special vegetarian save the Earth fund”.
On the positive side, this news is all over the web, which means that people are talking about it. If even one kid asks his mom about vegetarianism and that promotes a meaningful discussion, or one person gives the meat-free lifestyle a try, then it’s something good. I’d genuinely hope that more than one person will start thinking about their lifestyle and might make a change based on this event.
As an aside, readers might wonder why I seem to be so anti-Maccers. Well, besides the fact that the chain serves up more flesh than anyone can realistically even contemplate (how many cows is 75 burgers per second for 24 hours of every single day?), the food just isn’t all that flash.
I grew up in South Africa and we didn’t have McDonald’s in my formative years. McDonald’s was hyped up to be an amazing gastronomical experience by the tyranny of distance, along with TV and movies, but it was only when I got to Europe in 1993 that I tried a McDonald’s burger. To say that I was bitterly disappointed doesn’t even come close.
Back in my meat-eating days, I was used to real burgers, so when I got my BigMac from a McD’s in Athens, I thought that I was missing the plot. What, I wondered, was this flat, taste-free pastiche of a burger? With its slender patty, squashed bun and slivers of tomato and pickle, it bore virtually no resemblance to the image behind the counter, nor to a proper hamburger.
I thought that perhaps that specific Athens branch might have been having an off day, so I tried my luck again in Munich. If anyone could be counted on to deliver a burger exactly as per the McDonald’s operating manual, “Ze Chermans” could. So imagine my shock when I got the same old thing that I was served in Greece – this apparently was McDonald’s at its very best and all I could think was: “Is that all there is?” To this day, I’m glad that I never tried again; that was the last McDonald’s burger I ever risked. No great loss.
Barring price and drive-through convenience, I’m at a loss as to why anyone actually eats at McDonald’s. Even considering price and speed, give me a few minutes with a loaf of bread, some salad, a bit of cheese or an avo and I’m way ahead of a McDonald’s meal in terms of cost, taste and health. Just say no. Support the local fruit and vege shop. Make a choice to be healthy. It’s a simple as that. If you’re in India, I’m sure that you’ll get a better bite at the local street vendors. ASHLEY KRAMER