: McDonald’s is 50 years old today. That is, 50 years ago today, Ray Kroc opened his first Illinois restaurant and started the biggest restaurant chain in the world and changed food and culture.

Oh, I’ll bet there’ll be some today who’ll decry the day and complain about fast food and factories and fat and salt.

Not me. I love McDonald’s.

When I was a columnist in San Francisco, I reviewed the opening of a then-fancy new McDonald’s on Van Ness — and I panned it. Ray Kroc wrote a letter to the editor complaining that I was a “codfish aristocrat.” He assumed I was just another burger snob. But I called Mr. Kroc and told him that I had once been caught by a survey going to McDonald’s in Chicago five times a week; I was an addict. I believed in his credo of QC and I was saddened by the lack of quality I found in his newest emporium. The tone changed immediately: He knew he was talking with a believer and he said he’d get on the case immediately. He did. The restaurant quickly shaped up.

A quarter-cheese was my best hangover cure.

At my worst, I used to have two quarter cheese, a large fries, and a milk shake. It’s a wonder I’m still alive.

After my cholesterol tests of later years and after seeing my father-in-law post-bypass, I had to give up McDonald’s. My kids prefer Burger King, too. So it’s rare that I go there anymore.

But I still like McDonald’s. It represents speed, consistency, cleanliness, quality, value, and good, greasy, salty food. McDonald’s is America.

So join me today and let’s have a quarter-cheese and fries. Oh, what the hell, supersize that.

: DESSERT: says:

Celebrate the history of the golden arches and national obesity epidemic by visiting your local McD’s today! Evil or not, they still sell the best fast food fries around. (Sorry Burger King.)

Meanwhile, Indymedia, of course, finds the evil in this, celebrating 20 years of fighting against McDonald’s.

As Mumblix Grumph says in the comments: “It’s a freaking BURGER JOINT fer Chrissakes!!!”

And veteran grillman Tony Pierce says in the comments: “best first job a young person could have because every job that follows will be easier and pay better.”

: I’m watching the McDonald’s webcast of the opening of a new flagship shop in Chicago. The first customer is going to be a guy who was a teen and among the first customers on the day the first store opened 50 years ago, Glenn Volkman (if I’m hearing the name right). See: You can survive eating this stuff.

: LATER: If you speak German, here are Bild’s 50 reasons why we love to go to McDonald’s. I wish my German were good enough to translate the best punchlines; perhaps better students than I can in the comments….