I loved a certain restaurant with a giant yellow "M" when I was a child ... it was a treat to go there and I have many fond memories of this experience. Then why do I deny my darling sons this innocent reward of childhood?
In a word: knowledge.
When I was 16, I got a job at a fast food restaurant (not McIcky's, but in fact one of their West Coast competitors). Suddenly, all my grand illusions of this type of cuisine (I use the word "cuisine" in the loosest sense of the word) were shattered. Dead rats. Live rats. Rats on the grill. Frozen meat that looked about as appetizing as a hockey puck. Milk shakes that I dare say did not even contain milk or even ice-cream (I remember looking at the carton that I had to pour into the milkshake machine; as I read the very long list of all-UNnatural ingredients-- including plasticizers!-- I was nauseated). Dirty bathrooms. Dirty floors. Green tomatoes. Food that would sit under the heat lamp for an hour. The list goes on.
This particular epiphany ("The food is unappetizing and quite possibly illness-inducing") of my restaurant education sticks with me, much as I suspect those plasticizers would. Yes, I have read the book "Fast Food Nation" by Eric Schlosser. (An excellent resource!) My personal fast food experience was only the veneer of what this fabulous author uncovers in his scathing report.
I avoid fast food restaurants and I shield my children from exposure to them as well. I remember when Tall was around three years old, and we drove past the familiar yellow M. Tall sweetly asked, Why don't we ever go to McIcky's like my friends do? I decided this was what many parenting and child psychology experts refer to as a "teachable moment", so I embraced it as such. I replied, Honey, it's because there are rats there.
Realizing this might not be quite as dramatic as I had hoped, I added as a hasty afterthought, And the food is poison.
Tall paused to consider this new information. Then he said simply, If the food is poison, then why would the rats eat there? Gotta love the wisdom of a 3 year old!
Now before you think that I've gone completely Vegan (don't worry, I haven't), let me say that we do occasionally eat at a "version" of a fast food restaurant called "Elevation Burger" (no, I don't have stock in this company, but maybe I should). It's fast food, but on the next level. The meat is organic. The french fries are fried in olive oil. The shakes are mixed by hand with real ice cream (what a concept!).
After knowing the history of McIcky's founder (who formerly sold milkshake machines), I think Elevation Burger is actually more in keeping with the original vision of what McIcky's was striving for. So what happened? I believe it was a case of too much success and losing the original vision, the initial concept that made Mr. McIcky buy his first restaurant from brothers who had purchased FIVE milkshake machines from him for their restaurant (to put that in perspective, most restaurants were buying one or two milkshake machines). Clearly, the brothers were on to a successful formula. Good food. Maybe even delicious food that would make you want to come back again. All at a good price, and prepared quickly.
Isn't that what we all want?
No. Short laments to me why he wants to go to McIcky's like all his friends: They give you toys with your food at McIcky's!
("Meat Or Vegetables"?)