1990s >> 1995 >> no-1087-march-1995

A Word in Your Ear: Ich Bin Ein Scheissburger

There was a time when you could write what you liked about hamburgers, but to publish so much as a disloyal phrase against the Royal Family was out of bounds. (John Wilkes was sentenced to prison for it.) These days you can say what you like about the Royals, ranging from TV puppets of a dypso Princess Margaret to assertions that the Queen Mother has at last found her way from pompous arrogance to ill-concealed dotage; the Windsors will turn a blind eye to such home truths on the basis, we must assume, that when your entire function is to be conspicuously useless all publicity is good publicity. Call the Queen a bitch and a parasite and no guardsman will turn up on your doorstep, sword in hand, ready to defend the good name of the Crown. Say bad things about McDonald’s hamburgers, on the other hand, and you’ll end up in the Old Bailey.

We’re no fools: this column will burst its edges with praise for the unadulterated culinary plague which has descended upon our class in the name of “fast food” Slithers of meat-like stuff with processed tomatoes, artificially-coloured sauces and enough chemicals to give Saddam Hussein a run for his money in any dirty war: Yum! Yum! Cancel the table at the Ritz — and make mine a double cheese topping with a big bag of chips — now called “fries” in case anyone might have thought they were cooked healthily. To be eaten without so much as a knife and fork (let it never be said that our masters have pretended to accord us dignity) and there you have a fast-food feast for the inferior.

The Big Mac logo is now shown in more places world-wide than any other apart from Coke’s. Eat a Big Mac with a carton of coke (allegedly leading to teeth-rot as well as an assault on your guts) and you will be playing your own horrible part in an Empire of Logos which leaves the swastika a mere bit player in history. (If only Goebbels had considered adding sugar to the sauerkraut and marketing it in stale buns.) When Western “freedom” came to Moscow it flew under the McDonalds flag of convenience.

What the Sun is to literacy Big Macs are to decent food, but that should not disguise the fact that before the Sun there was the Mirror and the Mail, and before anyone ever thought of “eating out in style” (poverty-style, to be precise) there were packaged steak pies without steak in them, skate and chips dripping with grease and, the staple diet of every self-romanticised wage slave, bread ‘n’ dripping. In short, for most of recent history the working class has been expected to eat trash.

These days supermarkets contrive to invent more exotic names for their frozen portions of packaged fodder The “Mexican Delite” (spelt to warn that it’s a con) to the frozen chicken korma (mild) and “Italian lasagne” (not to be confused with Latvian lasagne, in case you were looking for that) all taste like one single pre-digested mush. The toad has fallen out of the hole in most supermarket packets, gone to find its market in your new high street Toad-U-Like or Spud-U-Like (yes, they’ve actually persuaded wage slaves to pay a quid for a potato in its jacket). What is this but the sour taste of profit before need? The truth is that the average medieval peasant ate better than the modern wage slave.

Each week in the Sunday Times the odious Michael Winner ululates in the name of criticism against selected five-star restaurants where the food was not just as it should be for the rich and privileged. Winner whines when his lobster doesn’t screech loud enough as it hits the boiling water and is merciless on any waiter who can’t get him just the right wine at just the right temperature from just the right part of France. As an advanced guard into the eating establishments of the snobs and parasites, Winner is your man. His critical hammer is not applied to the likes of Burger King whoppers, Chicken McNuggets and Kentucky Fried Cholesterol. Presumably Winner is aware that any old garbage is good enough for the Losers of the wealth-producing class.

It is costing McDonald’s £5,000 a day to mount their current libel case — the longest in British history — against the two victims who dared to publish a leaflet saying that their food was lousy, probably causes cancer and is produced by workers under super-exploited conditions. Anyone with a spare afternoon in central London should go along and laugh at the Big Mac’s briefs embarrassing themselves in public. (For example, they spent tens of thousands of dollars flying over from America expert witnesses to prove that McDonald’s contain nutrients — only for them to admit under cross-examination that all food contains nutrients.)

Working on the old dictum that you are what you eat, might we conclude that the class who order quails eggs regard the class who can afford Big Macs as being a load of . . . old scheiss, if you’ll pardon my German “I am a hamburger” declared JFK in a moment of identity crisis. “Let them eat crap”, says Ronald McDonald, “and a free photo of Princess Di in the raw for every teenager ordering large fries.”

Steve Coleman