: 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….

  • George

    There ain’t no such thing as supersizing anymore.

  • Faramin

    But I still like McDonald’s. It represents speed, consistency, cleanliness, quality, value, and good, greasy, salty food. McDonald’s is America.
    In addition to being the symbol garbage under the name of “food”, McDonald’s is also the symbol of exploitaion and low wage labour and anti-uniunism. Is this your America?

  • Here comes Faramin, right on cue, yay!

  • You: wrong
    Your kids: right
    I prefer Berger King, however, it went out of business in Japan. We hate junk fast food.
    Don’t get supersized and get a heart attack because you have so much to offer to this world.

  • kevinpeters

    A union for french fry makers? By definition these are entry level jobs. These jobs are for kids or people who are going on to other jobs soon. Whats next, a call for a union for kids who cut lawns? I don’t mind unions but not in the fast food industry.Most non mangerial jobs are always going to be near the minimum wage and most people do not want to make a carreer out of flipping burgers. Most want to get out as soon as they can find a better job. It is a low skill, low wage , high turnover industry.

  • You just can’t beat the double cheeseburger, now that it’s on the Dollar Menu. I think of it as eating a regular cheeseburger and an Atkins cheeseburger and try not to feel the flutter in my chest as it goes down…

  • Benjamin

    But I still like McDonald’s. It represents speed, consistency, cleanliness, quality, value, and good, greasy, salty food. McDonald’s is America.
    It also sells food that kills you if you eat it regularly, as Jarvis admits. Plus it homgenises food and food production and pays insulting wages where it can get away with it.
    For example, in Hong Kong, that equates to slightly over £1 an hour.
    But of the workers, not a word from Jarvis. Too busy chomping his cheeseburger.
    So Jeff Jarvis calls this company “America”. He’s only partly right. It is America but the worst side – and yet he chooses to use his blog as free advertising for company that is hardly short of a dollar or two.
    Who needs Republicans when got Democrats like Jarvis?

  • Ben SParks

    It also sells food that kills you if you eat it regularly
    wrong! it can actually be healthy. watch Bowling for Morgan ( a free online documentary.

  • Benjamin

    BTW, Jeff, in Hong Kong, McDonalds proposed, as a celebration, a marketing scheme whereby kids would be encouraged to eat its meals daily.
    Through public pressure McDonalds backed down. Parents figured that this marketing, if successful, may end up killing their offspring.
    McDonalds knew that too, but proposed the marketing all the same.

  • Benjamin

    wrong! it can actually be healthy. watch Bowling for Morgan ( a free online documentary.
    Jarvis will be delighted. Tuck in, then! Don’t worry about those cholestrol levels, mate!

  • Benjamin

    wrong! it can actually be healthy. watch Bowling for Morgan ( a free online documentary.
    Jarvis will be delighted. Tuck in, then! Don’t worry about those cholestrol levels, mate!

  • Mumblix Grumph

    What the hell is wrong with you McDonalds bashers?
    Health food? It’s a freaking BURGER JOINT fer Chrissakes!
    Union wages? It’s a freaking BURGER JOINT fer Chrissakes!!
    It IS old-school Americana. It’s a freaking BURGER JOINT fer Chrissakes!!!
    I can imagine you pouty Lefties going to the Tofu-Hut after school casting contemptous sneers at the “peasents” at the McDonalds across the street. Pathetic.
    Sod Off, Swampy.

  • my first job was at mcdonalds in santa monica. one thing about the place, when no one will hire you because youre a teenager with no experience, mcdonalds will. you work your ass off for minimum wage cleaning toilets and dealing with people who expect their meal in minutes if not seconds.
    best first job a young person could have because every job that follows will be easier and pay better.

  • Del

    Yeah, I don’t have a problem with McDonalds either. Its not suppose to be a career anyhow; its essentially for kids to get some experience just holding a job, and for seniors that don’t have anything else to do. And the food isn’t that bad, they have nice salads now. If you think it makes you fat, don’t eat it – its a free country.
    And that Spurlock guy (Supersize Me) is an idiot. What kind of person buys a supersize fries and then complains about how big it is? Why’d he buy it in the first place? Does he want them to give him less for his money? What an idiot (I couldn’t resist bringing him up; I hate that guy).

  • Ain’t no Mickey D’s here in Saigon. Just once a year for me. Your proposal does make my mouth water though.

  • LT

    Dude, you have got to lighten up…

  • LT

    seriously, all this resentment you carry…man. a symbol of exploitation??? wow

  • There are lots of McDonald’s here in bangkok.
    I was in San Francisco BM (before McDonald’s). I remember they had a tough time getting permission to get in. I thought it was kinda funny.
    Nothing beats a Whopper, unless you have to eat one every day.

  • I briefly worked at McDonald’s in high school. It was one of the worst jobs I’ve had. The Taylorism is so complete the manager didn’t even like that I was left handed because what I did look different from the carefully choreographed routines.
    After I quit, I didn’t eat at McDonald’s for years. I think I was finally lured back by 99 cent Quarter Pounders (which I must admit I liked as a kid). It has again been years since I’ve eaten at one.
    Franny Armstrong’s McLibel was shown on BBC2 last night. It will open theatrically in the US on May 20th.
    The original version was very good.
    She convinced Ken Loach to direct the courtroom reenactments for free (and they are the best in a doc I’ve seen). The new version is recut and 30 minutes longer.
    Even if you don’t agree with the critique of McDonald’s, it shows that McSpotlight was an early example of the power of a website (and the power of the publicity when a company stupidly sues you).
    I’ll have to dig up the interview I did with her a couple of years ago and try to put the audio online.

  • To those wringing their hands in angst over the ‘low wages’ at McDonald’s – how much did you pay for that shirt that you are wearing, hmmm? How much did you pay for your bedsheets, your radio, or for that matter your computer? Chances are, I would wager, that the workers who made those products in asia (most likely) would LOVE to make a pound an hour.
    Ah, I see, you only care about slave wages when it is an AMERICAN product. Slaves of other countries just don’t seem to count to you hypocrites very much.
    Either that, or you just like bashing America. Which is it?

  • Mike

    McDonald’s is the American Dream realized. A man opened up a burger joint and turned it into a multi-multi-billion dollar operation. Sure the food may not be the healthiest, but no one is forcing you to eat it. Sure they don’t pay high wages, but no one is forcing you to work there.

  • Mmmmm, McDonalds. I keep trying to convince myself that McDs is disgusting and I don’t like it.
    I fail most of the time.
    I think they put crack in the fries (though Chic-Fil-A sticks something more addicting in theirs).
    My hometown, Indiana, PA, has the best staffed McDs I’ve ever seen. Always three people working the counter and 5 or 6 in the back, one person actually sits out in a small booth to take your drive thru orders. None of this “speak into the incomprehensible microphone and get the wrong meal” stuff. If I’m at home, and want a quick meal, you won’t get it any quicker. Of course, it helps that this McDs is right off campus, and is frequented by college students sick of dorm food but too poor to get higher quality food.

  • Jim C

    Boy, do I miss Gino’s Hamburgers. They had the BEST sauce coverage for their hamburgers. Never did find out what the ingredents were that it was made from. Bad Choes: 177 whoopie!

  • Rob M

    Can I get a double quarter pounder with cheese, large fries and a coke? Does that come with a portable defibrillator? Great.
    Man now I have 2 hours before lunch. Darn you Jarvis

  • jeremy in NYC

    One thing McDonald’s is pretty good at is insuring a systemic level of quality (which can be hard to do weith franchisees). If you go to the McDonald’s and Burger King across the street from each other in my neighborhood (32nd and 5th) you’ll see the difference. The McDonalds is, well, like every other McDonalds. The BK is a different story.
    Now if we could just get McDonalds to stop their apparently nationwide program whereby they stop serving breakfast while I’m next in line, I’d be happy.

  • Patricia

    My favorite hangover meal is Fish sandwich, fries and milkshake. I wish they would bring back the real lard to cook the fries in, too.
    My cousin who works in int’l development also told me that Mickey D’s is popular in places like Russia because they know that the quality control ensures safe food. I guess in places where the street food could kill you, cholesterol down the line seems like a good tradeoff.

  • One of the very earliest McDonalds opened in my hometown, Muncie, IN, back in the late fifties. It was right at the end of my paper route, and on fridays, collection day, I spent most of my profits there. I was ten or eleven then, and I thought, and still think, they served the greatest fries ever. I was back home a few weeks ago. That McDonalds is still there, and the fries are still excellent.
    As for the nutcase ideologues who want to demonize a farging burger joint, knock yourself out. Nobody cares what you think on the issue anyway. I’d trade every one of you for a couple of large fries in a heartbeat.
    You think working McDonalds is hard? Try delivering a 125 house paper route at five a.m. on a snowy midwestern winter morning. I would have loved to work there, but I was too young, and they wouldn’t hire me.

  • ed

    Admittedly, the fries are great (not as great as when they used animal fats in the oil) but 9 times out of 10 I can get a better burger at a local burger joint. Their burgers are just lousy.

  • kevinpeters

    Why do people eat at fast food joints? because they are fast and cheap. Unionize McDonalds and the price will no longer be cheap. Sales go down, people get fired. So by unionizing McDonalds the very people you are trying to help will lose their jobs. 90 percent of the employees at MCDonalds will leave within a year or two. So the long term benifits that industries that should be unionized get will not go to the very people you are fighting for. The raise in pay will be somewhat diminished by the union dues. Except for the one or two managers at any McDonalds this is not a carreer job. You would do better to spend your energy raising the minimum wage rather then teaching burger flippers Woody Gutherie songs. A union for McDonalds is a complete joke. The only people who would benifit would be the Union officials.

  • Jeff, thanks for the tip. I had no idea that today was the big 50. I went and got happy meals for the office…hadn’t been to mickey D’s in years. The staff there was really friendly and the total bill was unimaginably cheap and I felt like Santa at lunchtime.
    Mike is right, McDonald’s IS the American Dream. i remember the story of Ray Kroc in David Halberstam’s “The Fifties”, a self made high school drop out…a populist if there ever was one. he started out as a paper cup salesman. Even after the franchise exploded, he wouldn’t let the company hire anyone with an MBA for a long long time because he thought they were all arrogant.

  • McDonald’s is also the symbol of exploitaion and low wage labour and anti-uniunism. Is this your America?
    Does it ever occur to people who make remarks like this that no one climbs a ladder without stepping on the first few steps?
    Everyone needs a first job.
    If you stay there, in America at least, it’s your own darn fault.
    My Dad, who married in his thirties, always said, he didn’t get married until he was sure he could support a wife and family.
    His kids all took a page out of his book, making sure they or their spouses had good jobs BEFORE marriage and family.
    These days, unfortunately, that’s just a quaint idea.
    McDonald’s jobs were never meant for sole breadwinners, unless as a second job,…but for first job seekers, part timers, or college students.

  • > Bild’s 50 reasons why we love to go to McDonald’s
    Bild and McDonald’s Deutschland are corporate partners, and as BildBlog repeatedly points out sometimes what Bild writes about its partners is indistinguishable from advertising. So take this with a grain, or even a large block, of salt.

  • I prefer Berger King, however, it went out of business in Japan. We hate junk fast food.
    That must be why every Wendys I went to in Japan was packed..

  • Ed

    Ray Kroc is certainly an American dream realized, celebrating unfettered avarice. I notice that there isn’t any mention here of the McDonald brothers — the folks who came up with the idea. Kroc bought the idea for a mere $2.7 million, with nothing in the way of percentage profits. McDonald’s has since gone onto make annual sales of $8 billion.
    And if you genuinely believe that McDonald’s frozen patties are the best burger around, then you don’t know burgers. Check out Steven Raichlen.

  • Bill, while your paper route sucked, so did working at McDonald’s. I doubt you’d find many people who’ve worked there who liked it. I quit because they kept me there past midnight on a school night even though it was against the law (and I got a much better job that paid better working as a page in the library).
    My similar experience was going to the chain bookstores in town (and in Indianapolis at the time, there was one independent bookstore) and never getting hired even though I knew far more about books and magazines than most of their employees.
    My first job was programming computers the summers after 8th (on PLATO) and 9th grade (on Commodore PETs) at IUPUI. I think it is better to have a good job you like with a boss who listens to your ideas, that pays well, and allows you to explore online so you know what work can and should be like.
    Lynn, more and more people are working for long periods at fast food places. The manager of the Wendy’s where the finger was found in chile says many of his employees have been working there for ten years. And no, it isn’t their fault. You don’t receive training which will prepare you for another job let alone tuition reinbursement.
    And it isn’t just teenagers. In Chicago, many people get up early to travel to the northern suburbs and then walk a mile in the snow to work at fast food places.
    Pundit Ken, some of us do care about workers wherever they work. A sweatshops on the Indymedia site Jeff links to (including this piece on computer sweatshops in Thailand, Mexico, and China.
    And I didn’t realize it was anti-american to criticize McDonald’s. There has been a tradition of dissent and criticizing both the government and corporations (like Apple since Safari crashed and I lost this the first time I wrote it).

  • Faramin

    To: Am I A Pundit Now?
    McDonald’s is a symbol of exploitation, not the only one.
    You are right, those items you were talking about are made by cheap labour and the profit out of it, goes into the pockets of the rich corporations who are just busy sucking the blood of child laboureres around the world.
    Of course, I don’t expect you to understrand what I am talking about. Keep these words and try them again in a few years. You mught ubderstand them then.

  • Faramin

    BTW Pundit,
    Since you don’t have the same privilege of watching good programs and documnetaries, as we do here in Canada, you might wish to check out this documentary called The Corporation to educate yourself about what the corporations are doing.

  • breakman

    I liked the stuff they sell..Almost as good as the Kewpee oliveburger. Getting older…Need my health. Moved away to desolate area. Solved the thing.

  • Kat

    In Canada, their government is a big corporation, they steal from the poor and make millionaires out of French Liberals. But Faramin would rather shit and whine about the US than worry about Canada’s money laundering by the government. Hell, the corporations in that fiasco didn’t even have to do any work, they just gave you money as long as you returned a percentage to the Liberal coffers in Quebec. What crooked leftist bastards, eh Faramin? Clean up your own house. I’m going to Mickey D’s for breakfast then to church to thank God for America..:):)

  • Faramin

    I’m going to Mickey D’s for breakfast then to church to thank God for America..:):)
    Exactly! Perhaps that’s why your brain is so disfunctional. ;)

  • Eileen

    A wink and a smile. Let’s supersize that one.