Fri, Aug 27, 2004 - Page 19 News List

Restaurant: McDonald's

By Max Woodworth  /  STAFF REPORTER

McDonald's and fat are two words that belong together. The documentary Supersize Me by Morgan Spurlock shows why.

PHOTO: JULES QUARTLY, TAIPEI TIMES

When Morgan Spurlock, the creator of the movie Supersize Me (which opens tomorrow at selected cinemas in Taiwan, see movie listings), submitted himself to a 30-day exclusive diet of McDonald's food, those around him thought the plan silly and misguided. They wondered, as did I, what he was trying to prove. He ended up proving that only eating fast food can quite possibly kill you over a shockingly short stretch of time. Well, Spurlock didn't die for his movie, but his doctors said he'd done major damage to his liver and his cholesterol levels were off the scale.

Watching the movie, aside from the nausea one feels vicariously, one also can't help but feel McDonald's was framed by the terms of Spurlock's self-imposed challenge. The restaurant chain's claims that its menu is healthy are so caveat-filled as to be hogwash. Everyone knows this and that is why the premise of the film elicits an immediate gut-turning reaction. No one should eat McDonald's every day three times a day. But is McDonald's that bad for one meal? Around Town took the plunge to find out.

First, McDonald's prides itself on turning a meal into an "experience." That translates to rapid and courteous service, a sanitary seating area and spotless bathrooms. Then there are some extras like the kiddie zone and newspapers to read because McDonald's is, ironically, one of the restaurants where patrons linger well after the last bite, especially in summer when the air-conditioning is so refreshing.

On this occasion at the Xinsheng-Jinan store, the service was, indeed, speedy and it came from an employee who was exceptionally eager and who smiled a lot, though it could have been out of embarrassment at her attempts to translate the menu into English. Or maybe my zipper was down. Who knows? In any case, her smile seemed sincere, so my experience up to the point of getting my order of Big Mac, large fries (supersized) and large Coke was pleasant and quick, though no quicker than ordering takeaway food anywhere else in Taipei.

As for how the Big Mac tasted, it suffered from two cardboard-texture beef patties, pathetically limp lettuce, gooey cheese, tasteless buns and too much of that artery-clogging special sauce (that's actually just ketchup and mayo, duh!). But somehow I ate the whole awful thing with relish, which is why I could identify with Spurlock's final confession to enjoying the food more as his month progressed.

The famous Russet Burbank potato fries in particular stood out, having just come out of the deep fryer, loaded up with salt. Eating them, I had to think that most people who say that freshly fried McDonald's fries don't taste good are almost certainly liars. After all, McDonald's has spent billions perfecting their taste. Whatever anyone says, those are darned good fries.

And finally, the Coke was what it's supposed to be: sweet and cold. I didn't have the stomach for any of the desserts, though, and it took the rest of the day for that heavy, icky feeling to disappear, but I still can't write the meal off as bad. The fries had hit the spot and, as Spurlock realized, the food tastes good -- at least when it's going down. As for it being healthy, don't believe the hype.

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