Visiting McDonald’s and Wasn’t it Good?

Here we are on our fabulous field trip to the one and only McDonald’s in Tubingen.  We came, we saw, we read, and we chowed down on burgers, Happy Meals (with a stylish Barbie make up mirror) fish sandwiches (my choice), fries, and McFlurries. Image

And the of course the fun was mixed with serious study.  Here we are trying to make sense of McDonald’s own promotional literature.


And here is a picture of the trash from our meals — boxes, wrappers, straws, napkins, tray liners, spoons, lids, cups, and condiments packets.  According to one web-site, it takes 800 square miles of forest just to keep McDonald’s supplied with paper for one year.  The Telegraph from the UK reports fast food litter was second to cigarette ends in littering the country’s streets and 29 per cent of that was from McDonald’s restaurants, followed by boxes and cups from unbranded kebab and fast food shops. Clearly we were doing our part.


Finally, here is an essay I wrote on the tensions between the global and the local using the example of Starbucks.


McShit — But I Like It?

I was in London during the later part of last week.  I had a few minutes and took a walk through Camden Town.  When I lived in London in the 1980s, this was the place to go for used clothes, records (yes vinyl) from obscure bands (see Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity), and bootleg tapes of live shows.  (I bought a few Billy Bragg tapes.)  Now it seems to be a place for international food, including McDonald’s, souvenirs from the Golden Jubilee, and all kinds of t-shirts.  (Interesting how t-shirts have become a key mode of expression.)

Here is one of the shirts for sale.

So what can we and should we make of this shirt?  Clothing is a kind of performance, right?  What would someone wearing this shirt be trying to say?  How would she/he want to be seen?  What sort of advertisement for self is this gesture?

Thinking about this shirt also seems to be a way to get at some of your comments.  Clearly McDonald’s remains popular and largely profitable.  So why all the criticism?  Why are the people on urban posting such critical comments?  Who are these people — what demographic groups?  (Who would wear the McShit shirt?)  Why is McDonald’s a tool to express their identity — in oppositional terms?

Just some stuff to think about today and over the next month.



Interviews with Prof. George Ritzer

My apologies for this outdated post, but I have been contacting Professor George Ritzer to ask some questions that I raised (please see below) ever since we read some pieces from his work on the McDonaldization a couple of weeks ago.  As we missed a chance to do that on the right time and the semester is almost over and he is busy, plus some kind of technical difficulties (he wanted to do interview on the phone being recorded instead of emails), he’s kindly agreed with me to post a previous interview on the importance on the McDonaldization and its future from youtube instead. He talks about the Starbuckization, too. There are a couple of more too so please go ahead and check them out.

1. I understand that your main argument is neither about McDonald’s itself nor their food but really about our society that accepts McDonald’s and transforms into like McDonald’s in terms of four components (efficiency, calculability, predictability and control through the substitution of nonhuman for human technology). Since we read your book in Professor Simon’s class on food and history, I am curious of the significance of food in the prosperous success in McDonald’s? Why do you think it had to be the food industry to create this culturally and socially dominant phenomenon?

2. Related to the first question, what does food mean to you and your research? Do you think food is good to think with like Levi Strauss? Or more like a metaphor to represent the society? What is your attitude to food and food studies?

3. Although you are of course very much aware of the diversity of McDonalization all over the world, for instance the McDonalization in Japan or the situation in Malaysia or France could be discussed differently from the case in the US, as the way of marketing strategies by McDonald’s responds (or creates) very well to local consumers’ demands, referring to the political, economic and cultural settings or living standard in each country. If that’s the case, how you do consider differences from the expressions of Americanization or other metaphors as such Cocacolarization, Disnification or Starbucks dissemination?

4. You discuss the way in which McDonalization applies to the processes of production of human beings as well as aspect of dying. I happened to go to a lecture of Professor Eric Klinenberg on his new book, Living Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone the other day and I wonder the connections between your argument on control over birth and dying and Professor Klinenberg’s point on the adults’ rights of choice on living or aging to the last day. Do you have any thoughts on the control of the other stages of human’s life between birth and death?

5. As I have been working on the acceptance of the Japanese food culture in contemporary US, I am curious about your opinion on the global popularity of the Japanese food like California rolls invented in the US. In terms of authenticity, and geopolitical, ecological and social impacts to consumers, how do you see and interpret this phenomenon?

Chicken Nuggets

What Are Chicken Nuggets Made Of?

This is more related to our previous readings but I thought of sharing this with you anyway especially because, as this clip mentions, McDonald’s business with Chicken Nuggets influences on the entire chicken industry deeply. It is sadly kind of grouse so I give you a warning in advance who are sensitive about it.

Mos Burger: Japanese Fine Burger and Coffee

I will start by sharing some pictures of food provided at Japanese hamburger stores Mos Burger mentioned in Ritzer’s piece.  The shop concept is “Japanese Fine Burger & Coffee”, which I did not really realize written underneath the name of the brand on their name board until recently. Mos Burger was founded in 1972 in Japan.  They adopt the “after order system”, meaning they make burgers only after they take orders from customers so that customers have to wait for a while at the store until they get items or they can eat inside of the restaurant. Since they take issues of food security, health and reliability seriously, they have contracts with domestic local farms and serve “safe” and “organic” vegetables as much as they can.

These are some burgers referred by Ritzer: Teriyaki Chicken Burger with soy sauce and miso (fermented bean paste) and Korean BBQ Rice Burger made of Japanese domestic rice. Rice is pressed into round buns like shapes and two rice cakes sandwich ingredients like Korean BBQ beef, stirred gobo or chicken balls flavored with soy sauce. Surprisingly they hold food pretty well. Korean BBQ is just so popular in Japan that people really don’t really think it ethnic food anymore. It’s almost like tacos in the US and it of course comes with some kind of modifications from the original recipes.

They also serve some hot dogs such as chili dogs and seafood dogs below. Chili dog is actually not bad I think.

They are some desserts served during winter. “Hot puddings” (cheese soufflé and chocolate)  and red bean soup with mochi.  They frequently change menus of burgers as well as desserts depending on seasons. Currently, they serve frozen cube cakes made of black sesame and green tea.

Is this still part of McDonaldization? Or Americanized way of eating adapted locally to Japan? Among some other similar Japanese burger stores, Mos Burgers is one of the most popular and successful ones. Recently they have extended their business to Asian countries aiming to be “Mos of Asia”. They run business in Taiwan, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, Korea, China, and Australia (Malaysia one was closed). Can burgers be a representation of Asia and appeal to international markets??