Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Fast Food Connections

You can tell a lot about a culture by its food. In this case, you can tell even more about a culture by its fast food.

As Canadians we tend to separate ourselves from Americans. We do this often when we travel. We will wear the flag on our pack, or on a bandana around our head. In some cases we will just clothe ourselves from head to toe is the gool ol' red and white. But deep down inside we truly believe Americans are not all that different from us.

What can one strip of land, the largest unguarded boarder on earth, really do to change people? Certainly someone born one hundred kilometers north would be similar to one born one hundred kilometers south. And we really do tend to believe this, until it comes smashing down around us, smacking us in the face.

The Hardee's Experience
Stopping the inane shouting of "Chimpanzie that! It's MONKEY NEWS!" from the Rickie Gervais podcast, being able to take no more of the ramblings of one known only as Karl, we pulled into a Hardee's parking lot.

Hardee's is a restaurant that I remember fondly from my youth growing up in Florida. Though I only fully spent my grade three school year there, I did travel back for every Christmas, March Break, and Summer vacation for the better part of my life. I'd travelled there so many times, I can honestly say that if I never return, that will be just fine with me.

But there I was at Hardees, trying to explain to my travelling companions that this would be a cultural experience the likes they had never dreamed of. Surely it would be similar to a McDonalds, they tried to offer up - they were disbelievers. They were disbelievers until the moment they stepped through the doors.

Inside were a large number of white men and women whose leather belts were all strapped to their last hole. "These are my people!" I proclaimed. I was not the odd one out this time, no - for south of the border I blend in seamlessly with the environment. It was they who seemed visually out of place.

But like anything, the more you stare at it, the more you notice the differences rather than the similarities. Now I am by no means a small man, but at the same time - the shirts I wear could be worn by someone trying to pull of a "baggy look." The shirts these people wore - could make two of my own shirts. And I don't say this to offend, or insult, for I hold nothing against these people, and I hold nothing against those who like to eat. I too enjoy a delicious meal - often if possible.

While my companions searched the menu, lost amongst the foreign choices, I headed to the washroom. It was on that brief stroll that two more oddities struck me. Just past the ordering counter was an alcove, darkly lit full of cigarette machines, and no less than three different hunting arcade games. Why you could digitally hunt rabbits and foxes, or move up to large game such as deer. But for the truly daring, the dangerous game hunter machine offered the most deadly of northern beasts for your shooting pleasure: The polar bear!

And there were people playing these games.

And they were actually dressed in their hunting clothes.

This was difference number one. As I shook my head (and secretly wished I had some quarters in my pocket) I made my way further onward towards the washroom. I was stopped only when I saw a spinning rack of t-shirts: "Jesus died for MYSPACE in heaven!" And it had the my space logo... HERO (with the Heroes TV logo, and a bible verse below it.) A picture of the "Easy Button" from business depot, with the word Jesus replacing easy. The slogan below? The simple solution. There were over twenty different delightful varieties. All sorts of ways for you to show, through t-shirted joy, your love for Jesus Christ. This is something we don't often offer in Canadian fast food joints, or accompanying service centres.

A closer inspection of the tag would reveal the price: 9.99* (*price may be different for XXL - 4XL sizes) ... ... ... 4XL sizes?! I had not even heard of such a thing before - though I admit to being slightly excited by the possibility.

A quick glace back to all the locals sitting down eating their meals - the excitement was removed, but replaced with understanding.

But honestly, who can blame them? Hardee's offers a 1/3lb cheeseburger, for only a couple of bucks. No time for 1/4pounders here - no sir. 1/3 pound or nothing! And then for an extra 59 cents, they will top that burger with 1/3lb of steak. That's right - an extra third pound of meat for just over half a dollar. And their fries? Well you'd be crazy to not pay the 29 cents to get them slathered in cheese and bacon.

Yes - American fast food - a lot becomes clear here. A lot of the eating is a cultural experience - though my companions didn't quite understand what I meant - not until the Amish family walked in, in their hand stitched denim clothing, leaving their horses hitches up to the fence by the high way. They were on their way to sell pies from a wagon stored near by.

Fast food: It's definitely a cultural experience the world over.


  1. I think the guy is Karl Plinkinton (last name-something like that). He is a pal of Ricky Gervais and Karl wrote a super hilarious book that reads like a full-length stand-up comedy show, "Happy Slapped by a Jellyfish". I remember laughing my head off reading that one.

    You know, my buddies and I went to Ponderosa (buffet) in Buffalo, NY. I think we were the smallest (not just because we're Asians) customers there. Their pop (soda) was served in, like, 64-oz. cup or something...I feel sick just thinking of it :(

  2. Great post! I'm new to your blog and am really enjoying your writing. This entry really cracked me up. There's no place like home...


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