Sunday, January 31, 2010

Getting reacquainted with an old friend

Yesterday Blake and I went on a Saturday excursion into London. We do, in fact, still live in London; it just doesn't feel like it! At any rate, Matt had a rather unsavory task on his hands, which was to re-hang a curtain track in the living room, so I thought it would be best if Blake and I cleared out. Blake was very excited to go on the "choo choo" train, and I think it lived up to his expectations even though it was only a 12-minute trip into Victoria Station.
From there, I started to have the feeling that my style of motherhood can only be described in times like those as masochistic. Everything with these excursions to do errands just ends up feeling so hard. The reason for our trip was actually to return some curtains to Peter Jones, a department store a mere one tube stop away from Victoria. The effort to get there, however, seemed exceptional, with various stairs, my carrying the curtains, the stroller and all the while making sure to keep tight hold of Blake's little hand.
Once there, things didn't get much easier, as Blake became fascinated with a section of the roller blinds and made it impossible for me to get advice on what size curtains we actually needed for our 4-meter bay window. A quick stop in the shoe department revealed that his feet still weren't ready for the next size shoe, so we then spent some time in the toy department before a thought popped into my head that I then couldn't suppress.
At least four years ago, maybe even five or more, I read the book Fast Food Nation and decided that from that point on, I would no longer eat any food from McDonald's. Just like that, I made the decision and have kept this vow without any aberrations - or at least none that I can remember - since. I have not really missed the fries, the burgers, any of it, although I do remember a few times over the summers where I was tempted by a sundae.
So despite this commitment to abstinence, yesterday, I just wanted an easy route out of the toy department. I excitedly asked Blake if he wanted to go to McDonald's for chips and a hamburger, and he said yes. The seed was sown.
After several attempts to leave the toy section (without making any purchases, I'm proud to say), we finally made it out of the store and found ourselves on the King's Road, the main shopping street in one of the posher parts of London. I looked down the road but couldn't seen any arches, and the more I considered it, the less likely I thought it was that a McDonald's was within walking distance. Blake settled for a banana, and we made our way back to Victoria. Another fairly strenuous journey on the tube to get us there, and as we entered the main concourse I saw a Burger King. Would that do? I thought. Although my vow had specifically been to swear off McD's, in reality I'd kind of written off most of the fast-food places for the same reasons, so I decided that if I was going to commit this indiscretion, I should really go for it. At this point I felt probably not unlike those who are about to make any sort of misstep, but I considered it. What was the big deal? It wasn't anything like cheating...I had come up with the idea to give up something, and I had done it - with astounding commitment - but now it just felt silly. Why shouldn't we go there if I wanted to? At this point I kind of had to laugh though, because now I was actually seeking it out, and going out of my way to get there, when for so many people, the very reason they eat at McDonald's is because it happens to be so ubiquitous and almost unavoidable.
As we were standing in line, I contemplated getting something like a filet-o-fish (because following my reading of Fast Food Nation, I think my specific intention to boycott had something to do with mistreatment of cattle and cattle farmers and factory workers...mind you, I had no clue whether they treated the fish or the fishermen any better...probably not). In the end I got Blake a cheeseburger Happy Meal and myself a Quarter Pounder and fries.
I can say, that despite all McDonald's' imperfections (huge disgusting corporate brand, contributing to the fattening of the world through inexpensive and heart-clogging food, mistreatment of suppliers, animals and employees), I spent a very enjoyable half an hour as their guest.
Blake made me laugh with his careful manipulation of french fries into the ketchup (he held each one like a paintbrush and reminded me of a thoughtful artist pondering whether brick-red was indeed the right color needed from his palette), before sucking the ketchup off and dipping back for more. My Quarter Pounder was thankfully a bit burned, and I say thankfully because it made me realize that I won't be rushing back for my next value meal. The fries were tasty in a way that probably no other food can be described the same, and overall I was not wracked with guilt that this was where we had chosen to have lunch.
I wouldn't want to count how many meals I have eaten over the years at McDonald's, or how many times we went when I was a child so that I could amuse myself in the play area while on the premises, and with the toy from the Happy Meal once home. I don't think it's had anything to do with how I've turned out as a person, and I guess I don't really think that I would want to or even be able to shelter Blake from it in his childhood.
I did have an interesting thought, though, as I polished off the last bit of my burger to cartwheels and high jumps from BLT: this was a difference in my pregnancies! Whereas Blake was never subject to the delicacy/poison (depending on your viewpoint) of McD's while in the womb, BLT had now been! Would this simple act of reneging on a vow be a point which we would refer to over the years as BLT forges his/her path in life? I could just see it..."Oh, he's much more restless/prone to disruption/boisterous than Blake...must have been that McDonald's Meg ate when pregnant with him..." A funny thought.
The final coup de grace on the meal was Blake's spending the last 5 minutes or so on the brink of slumber, with his eyelids lowering before snapping to attention and his head bobbing around on his neck. He thought McDonald's was boring! Ha ha, in reality I think he was just exhausted, but I will certainly always remember that for his first trip to McDonald's he fell asleep before finishing his meal.
And with that, I ferried the sleeping boy into his stroller and we headed off back home. Later that day, we spent, oh about 45 seconds playing with the Scooby Doo toy from the Happy Meal, before the occasion faded into the annals of history. We won't be rushing back, but if we're desperate and hungry, I think McDonald's will do just fine.

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