Every Thursday in LOL Interwebz, Luke T. Harrington explores the quirks and foibles of Internet culture from a Gospel perspective.
If you’re the sort of person who tracks fast food trends on social media (and, if you are: who are you? is that, like, a job you can get, or something? how can I snag that gig?), you may have noticed that #WheresTheCheese is trending on Twitter. Apparently having solved cancer and world hunger, the Internet is moving on to wondering why McDonald’s mozzarella sticks contain surprisingly little mozzarella. Let’s not mince words here: this is important.
Nobody likes McDonald’s. But why did we feel the need to pressure them to change everything about themselves?If you’re skeptical, just take a second to look at some of the pics people have uploaded—and weep. Some of these photos are indeed shocking, displaying tubes of breading just as hollow as the lives of the sort of people who get upset about a dollar’s worth of cheese sticks from McDonald’s. Don’t mourn for our cheese; it’s already dead.
Having myself tried McDonald’s mozzarella sticks that were actually intact, I can confirm that they do, under ordinary circumstances, come filled with cheese—or at least some white, flavorless, spongy substance that may have, at some point, been in close proximity to a dairy product. However, take it from a former Sonic Drive-In carhop: lack of cheese is a frequent problem with mozzarella sticks. As you cook them, the breading gets crispy, but the cheese turns to liquid and (often) runs out, leaving a hollow shell filled with only the screams of the damned.
It’s the sort of thing an experienced cook would know to watch out for, but of course, McDonald’s cooks don’t have any experience with mozzarella sticks. Mozzarella sticks, for McDonald’s, are what’s known in the biz as a “limited time offer,” the sort of thing a fast food restaurant will sell for a few months to get you in the door, since you’re sick of their burgers and fries. It’s a game we all know well: one week they’ll discover that they can put jalapeños on a burger; the next, they’ll do their best to make their curly fries look like a pile of vomit; then they’ll remember that the fryer can be used on cheese as well as potatoes (who says fast food has to be healthy, right?). It’s an age-old dance, and if you pay close attention to it (don’t! the abyss will stare back into you!), it starts to look pretty desperate.
This might actually be McDoubly true for McDonald’s, which lately has struggled to maintain its unenviable position on top of the fast food heap. With their sales and their stock price in a free fall, they’ve been trying anything and everything short of nude cashiers to get customers in the door. First it was all-day breakfast; then it was “Create Your Taste” (where you could put kale and guacamole on your Quarter Pounder™—all through the magic of touchscreens!); now it’s…fried cheese.
You might see a pattern in all of this—specifically, the pattern of having no pattern at all. All-day breakfast seems like an attempt to appeal to the hangover crowd, who would probably rather be eating at Waffle House, anyway, and Create Your Taste seems like a misguided attempt to rope in the hipsters who would rather be eating at Five Guys. Mozzarella sticks are…what? Both? Neither? I dunno. McDonald’s has no idea what it’s doing anymore.
And y’know what? I think we’re to blame.
Mind you, I’m not exactly wracked with guilt over this, but we’ve spent literally the last twenty-odd years demanding that McDonald’s be different, and then, when they were different, not buying their stuff anyway.
“Your food’s too unhealthy!” we’d scream. “Sell salads instead!”
And McDonald’s would say, “Okay, check out our new line of salads.”
And we’d glance at the salads, and congratulate ourselves for thinking about eating salads, and then order the Double Quarter Pounder™ with Cheese.
And then we would scream again, “That Double Quarter Pounder™ with Cheese made me fat!”
And McDonald’s would be like, “Ugh, fine, here are yogurt parfaits and chicken wraps, and grilled chicken sandwiches on whole wheat rolls blessed with holy water!”
And we would say, “Thanks for looking out for us! But instead, I’ll have the big breakfast with hotcakes and also your coffee is disgusting!”
And McDonald’s would say, “Fine, we’ll install an ten-thousand-dollar espresso machine in every location.”
And we’d be like, “Eh, never mind, I’ll have a shake. And do you still have that Double Filet-o-Fish™ thing? Because I’m literally filled will self-loathing right now.”
And finally, McDonald’s was like, “UGH, WHAT DO YOU PEOPLE WANTTTTTT”
And we said, “It’s simple. We want food packed full of nutrients and low in calories that tastes like deep-fried artisanal chocolate and costs next to nothing and pays absolutely everyone in the supply chain a living wage!”
And McDonald’s said, “WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE? THAT IS LITERALLY IMPOSSIBLE—nah, y’know what? FINE. FINE. HERE ARE SOME STUPID BURGERS WITH STUPID KALE, AND ALSO GREASY EGGS ALL DAY, AND ALSO FRIED CHEESE FOR A BUCK, AND ALSO WE’LL PAY ALL OF OUR EMPLOYEES MORE, AND ALSO SANTA CLAUS IS REAL.”
And we were like, “Nah, y’know what? We’ll just go across the street and get a 10,000-calorie burrito from Chipotle” (who, by the way, is inexplicably still not using the motto “You can’t spell CHIPOTLE without ECOLI”).
The whole thing is very strange to me. I get not liking McDonald’s. Nobody likes McDonald’s. But why did we feel the need to pressure them to change everything about themselves? Why did we write books and make documentaries to shame them into being different when it would have been easier just to…stop eating there?
I’m starting to think that ours is a culture drowning in morals but starved for virtues—we all think no one has the right to judge us, but we all reserve the right to judge everyone else. It’s easy to demand that others change their behavior. But learning how to do justly and love mercy and walk humbly with your God? Or even just to eat right?
Psshhh, whatever. Pass the vomit-flavored curly fries.
Image by Prawny at Pixabay.