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Jul 26, 2010 08:01 AM


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  1. McD's is deplorable industrial food regardless of the ingredient source, I think italians are smart enuf to resist fast food because it is BAD food

    9 Replies
    1. re: jen kalb

      Jen, I respect your many good comments on this board, but what you said about McDonald's is strictly your own unfair opinion. You might not like what they offer in their restaurants, but it is not "deplorable" or "industrial" food. If you had the same opportunity that I and many others in the Chicago area have had to visit their product development kitchens at headquarters, you would know how much effort goes into making a good product. It may not be to your liking, but it is pleasing to many millions around the world who support McD's and make them the profitable company they have been for decades.

      1. re: CJT

        Look, Im not saying the food is activity bad - my Dad supported our family in the food industry, and Ive been known to eat a McDs burger. But I believe the trend to industrial production of food as opposed to the production of food in individual restaurant kitchens by cooks is deplorable. Fast food restaurants and chains are rapidly driving individually owned restaurants out of business in the US due to lower marginal costs and market power - I suspect pretty soon all we are going to have is high end specialty niche places and chains. I think you have to look at the effect of a standardized and yes industrial product on the food culture of a country - the delicious, complex food culture of italy we are talking about on this board is supported by a whole nation of cooks, in homes and in thousands of small restaurants that feed italians day by day, . Fast food chains eat away at this culture, replacing skilled individual cooks, servers, etc making their own best judgements - and supporting families on the fruit of their skills- with a model in which all the seasoning, ingredient and preparation choices are made for the chain at corporate headquarters, with a staff of minimally skilled and paid workers serving the public. When you consider that everything from bread to tomatoes and lettuce has to be standardized and capable of being sourced and processed in a mass way, it become evident that the McDs culture is contrary to the intensely local, seasonal and individualistic italian food ways with which it is competing.

        1. re: jen kalb

          I second Jen's concern, but wonder if Italy might be one of the cultures that resists the longest, for any number of historical, economic, and cultural/social reasons. Imagine a US version of the Autogrill that sold both sodas and muffins and mass snacks alongside local cheeses, cured meats, wines, and pastas--like almost every Autogrill does. Where you can have a real cook running a tavola calda. Or a local counter woman whip up six perfect macchiatos for a crowded bar without breaking a sweat.

          Of course, Italy is, like any industrialized society, awash in standardized, industrial food--on some level it has to be--and fake food that's presented mendaciously. Also, I doubt whether the ubiquitous Mulino Bianco cookies or the packages of (yes, they love it) Philadelphia cream cheese in the Conad supermarkets will ever go away. But I seriously doubt that Italians will settle for a world where the only choices are chains or expensively curated niche places. My hope is we won't have to either, although in some places in the US you wonder. McD's positioning in the story is not only absurd, but insulting. I think Italians will see it for what it is.

          1. re: bob96

            I too agree with Jen - and I'm surprised that anyone can say that it isn't industrial food - it absolutely is. Just because millions like them doesn't mean that the food is good or that they are responsible in the way they produce it. (And, as an aside, I "like" them - I used to find the Big Macs almost addictive. But good food it aint and I now refuse to go into them on principle).

            I think we are being naive if we think that Italians will be able to resist the lure of the huge corporations and fast food just because their food culture and identity is so strong. Within a generation the impact can be seen in France - a place I never would have thought would allow the likes of McD because of the importance French people place on good food and the provenance of that food. We are kidding ourselves if we don't recognise that the American life style, including fast food, is a potent influence on young people across Europe, and the rash of McDs is spreading ...

            1. re: Theresa

              As long as there are tourists, there will be business for McDonald's.

              1. re: ttoommyy

                It's not just (or mainly) tourists eating this stuff. It's locals.

                1. re: pikawicca

                  Yes, locals do eat there, but when I was in Milan in December and went to a McDonald's just to see what it was like, I'd say over half the people sitting down were not native Italians.

          2. re: jen kalb

            I understand your argument but I'm not sure you can lay the blame at McD's feet. Or any other FF company's feet for that matter. They provide a service that people are lining up in droves for.
            As time passes it seems that people are more and more lazy when it comes to food choices. McD's is right down the street. You know exactly what you're getting. It takes time and effort (and even wasted money) to find out if Joe's Diner which you pass to get there is any good.
            Certainly the chains can provide food cheaper. A quarter lb cheese burger with fries and a drink at Joe's is only gonna cost a couple extra bucks but you get much better quality. We all know this. It's just too bad that far too often people opt for the quick easy fix.

            I will admit that sometimes I don't feel like making the effort. My go to quick fix meal right now is a couple double cheese burgers and a drink.


        2. re: jen kalb

          I think Italians are as likely to succumb to advertising and media saturation as anybody -- something the leading politician of the country proves on a regular basis.

        3. The McDonalds near the Spanish Steps is gigantic. I think it has well over 400 tables on multiple floors. The place is packed to the rafters with....Italians!

          I took my wife there earlier this year just to show it to her, not to eat. I walked her through all the floors and all the rooms. It blew her mind.

          1 Reply
          1. re: steve h.

            Agreed. It's Italians more than tourists who jam McDonalds throughout Italy, including McDonalds in places where tourists rarely set foot.

          2. I do not understand why Italians choose to eat this stuff, but it's their right to choose. Perhaps it's because McD's is fast and slow food is, well, slow. You can get a super pizza in Rome for not much money, but it's going to take a while. The best fast food I've had in Italy was at a literal hole in the wall in Florence that dispenses the most incredible sandwiches. If they could franchise what thy do, they'd put McDonalds out of business in a heartbeat.

            15 Replies
            1. re: pikawicca

              I don't think the issue is "rights". On Chowhound, people express strong opinions about what is good and bad food or a good or bad meal -- and the presumption is that people are passing these judgments independent of any undisclosed commercial involvement they may have with the making and selling of the food in question.

              I think MacDonald's is bad food -- it tastes bad and it is produced and distributed in ways that make its nutritional value nil.

              There is an accumulating pile of evidence that many mass market food producers spend inordinate amounts of money finding ways to make their products near-addictive to children and adults, and using mass market media saturation techniques to create desires for foods that people would ordinarily bypass in favor of a fresh apricot.

              America -- if no one minds my saying so -- has a peculiar (in terms of history) disconnect from the land and how food is produced. It also has a peculiar disconnect to the sociable aspect of eating as an aid to good digestion. It is alarming that an American food corporation -- using sheer wealth and advertising -- could spread this disconnect globally, even into countries with the strongest traditions of connection to the soil and sociable meals. It really won't benefit anybody except the stockholders of McDonald's.

              1. re: barberinibee

                Variety, thats why some Italians will partake in the odd MackieD's! There will be no take over of Italian food but many people under the age of 40 are happy to try the odd burger now and then!

                1. re: barberinibee

                  Before I ever visited my first McDonalds, I ate at a British burger chain. Their Wimpy Burger was absolutely vile, yet people flocked to their outlets. The food was fast and cheap. This is what many people want. The food McDonalds produces is leagues better than the Wimpy swill.

                  You say McDonalds food "tastes bad." I disagree. I love an occasional Big Mac (once a year, or so), and their fries are great. As to the their foods' nutritional value being "nil," that's just silly. There are no calories in their food? No protein in the meat? No B vitamins?" It isn't health food, by any means, but it does supply certain nutrients.

                  There is, and has always been crappy food the world over, and people have never needed to be seduced into eating it. (I was addicted to deep-fried octopus balls when I was a kid living in Japan.)

                  It's popular to blame America for every ill these days, but really, you need to travel a bit. Watch TV in England, Germany, Japan, etc., and you will see a huge number of ads peddling an appalling variety of junky, locally produced foods.

                  1. re: pikawicca

                    The Pugliese love their McDonalds especially the soft ice cream; Why? maybe it is the novelty, it is American, etc. The Puglia is in Lecce, about as traditional a town as one gets. The locals pack the place, day and night. Another point about the soft ice cream; it is quite a bit less in price than the gelateria artigianale in town.

                    1. re: ospreycove

                      It boggle my mind that anyone would prefer McDonalds fake "ice cream" to gelato! I rarely eat ice scream in the States, but eat a scoop of gelato every day when I'm in Italy.

                      1. re: pikawicca

                        "It boggle my mind that anyone would prefer McDonalds fake "ice cream" to gelato! I rarely eat ice scream in the States, but eat a scoop of gelato every day when I'm in Italy."

                        Exactly! Italians have gelato everywhere you turn...but American-style ice cream? To them, it's a treat.

                        1. re: ttoommyy

                          But it's not "American style ice cream." It's fake ice cream.

                          1. re: pikawicca

                            What is "fake" ice cream? It may have a lot of chemicals in it that home-churned may not have, but it's not "fake." It's still ice cream. The ice cream I grew up eating in the 60s and 70s as a kid probably had a lot of chemicals in it; still, it was ice cream. I never tasted a home-churned ice cream until I was an adult.

                            1. re: ttoommyy

                              I don't think that McD's shakes are dairy-based.

                              Just cheked this out and says this is not true. The list of ingredients qualifies these "shakes" as "fakes," in my book, though.

                              1. re: pikawicca

                                From the McD's site:
                                "Chocolate Triple ThickĀ® Shake: Vanilla Reduced Fat Ice Cream :Milk, sugar, cream, nonfat milk solids, corn syrup solids, mono- and diglycerides, guar gum, dextrose, sodium citrate, artificial vanillaflavor, sodium phosphate, carrageenan, disodium phosphate, cellulose gum, vitamin A palmitate."

                                Yeah, a lot of crap, but their is "milk, cream and nonfat milk solids."

                                1. re: ttoommyy

                                  these are all normal commercial dairy food additives,not "crap". I prefer products that are simpler, but there is nothing inherently bad or surprising about these ingredients which I think all come from "natural" sources. I'm not interested in these shakes but a lot of people are. Its hardly a substitute for good gelato.

                                  1. re: jen kalb

                                    Sure isn't. I. But let's also remember that Italy, like every other industrialized nation, has tons of processed and mass-manufactured food, including gelato, sometimes even gelato that's said to be "produzione proprio."

                                    1. re: jen kalb

                                      When I used the term "crap" I just meant "other stuff." I eat foods with that "crap" in it all the time. I am by far a food snob!

                      2. re: pikawicca

                        We spend time in Rio de Janeiro and, yes, there's McD's, KFC and some others. But there are also Brazilian fast food chains that look just like "our" chains: same storefronts, types of menus, types of food. This isn't just the USA "polluting" the rest of the planet. Also you make a point that I think of when I see this type of thread. IT'S FAST!!!!!!!!!!! Really fast. The last month, becausing we're dealing with cleaning out late MIL house and a myriad of other details, I've eaten TOO much fast food. But it's quicker than making sandwiches, drinks, cleaning the kitchen afterwards, etc. And sometimes we're eating it from our laps while driving to the next errand. It serves a purpose and not just here. Italians, with their love of speed,probably really buy into it :)

                        1. re: pikawicca

                          Wimpy Burger had at least one store in Rome in 1970, so fast food is nothing new there. All I remember is that the ketchup was what American's would call "chili sauce", the red kind supermarkets sell next to the real ketchup.

                    2. Fast food in Italy has been around for hundreds of years and I don't see another wave from the anglo-saxon world making much of a difference. Catania currently supports 2 Mcdonald's and 1 BK. Some years back Bk went out of business in downtown Catania and took another 5 years yrs to make another appearance. The kebab business on the other hand is thriving with the 50 or so kebab houses getting their product from the same source in Germany. Second rate meat with no comparision to the mid-east but cheap and filling with a retail cost around $2.50-$3. That's one of a number of reasons that american fast food will really never establish the same footprint in Sicily that it may in many other parts of the world. McD has huge competition. When cipollini, cartociata, pizza, and 1/2 dozen other fast food Italian items cost less and to the Italian taste bud are more "genuine" than American fast food the giant industrial giants are going to have to work a heck of a lot harder than they already are just to maintain their less than 1% of the market.

                      1. Shesh, I think Katie needs to have a glass of chianti or 3 and chill...Like sweebreads and guanciale aren't "vile" and "disgusting" to some people

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: BiscuitBoy

                          Have I missed something? Who's Katie? And for that matter who's Shesh - if that's someone's name?

                          1. re: Theresa

                            Hello... Yes, you are missing something: Katie is the first name of the travel writer (whose article is ostensibly at the crux of this thread) who was referenced via the clickable link provided in the original post. In essence, it is author Katie Parla, clear as day, as attributed in said article...

                            1. re: silence9

                              Ah - it's several days since I read the article, so I had forgotten her name ...