The man who destroyed mealtimes

Richard McDonald, who founded the McDonald’s restaurant chain, died in 1998 but as long as our civilization survives he will never be forgotten. The golden arches he invented seem to infest the planet like a bright yellow plague. On American highways where once there were spectacular views stretching to the horizon, the landscape is now dominated by fluorescent plastic letters Ms, the height of four-storey buildings. McDonald’s restaurants are impossible to ignore. They are found in over 96 countries, including a vegetarian version in non-beef-eating Indian. Las year the chain’s busiest restaurant was the Moscow McDonald’s in Pushkin Square. It’s widely thought that the restaurant’s opening there, in the 1980s, was largely responsible for introducing capitalism to the old Soviet Union. This year a new McDonald’s will be opened somewhere in the world every three hours. The company is obviously aiming for world domination, and is destroying traditional eating habits wherever it goes. In Japan the arrival of McDonald’s has even overcome the traditional taboo about eating with your fingers while standing up, which was always regarded as bad manners. Richard McDonald has taken his palce among the people who have shapedthe modern world and lifestyle -every 32 million people worldwide eat a “Big Mc”. But he has altered far more than just our eating habits and skyline. His fast-food chain has fundamentally changed human behaviour in every country that has been colonised, and it is argued that it is responsible for causing obesity among millions of its custumers through the easy availability of a cheap 500-calories meal with an above average fat content. It all began in 1948 in San Bernardino, California. In the post- war “baby boom”, American families were becoming increasingly concerned about value for money. Richard “Dick” McDonald was a quiet, thoughtful man, who had already earned himselg a reputation as a marketing genius- he inventeddrive-in laundries and was the first person to use neon signs to advertise. Richard and his brother had the idea of feeding people quickly and cheaply from a simple, fixed menu without making them get out of their Chevrolets. And so McDonald’s, and the concept of “fast food”, was born. The company expanded quikly and in 1955 the McDonald’s brothers sold their 25 restaurant, althought Richard continued as a consulant until the seventies. In the fifties and sixties, before McDonald’s restaurants took over mealtimes, the “diner”, the traditional American restaurant, had been considerated king. American families used to go to their local diner to eat freshly made food in a relaxed atmosphere, and to chat to friends and neightbours. The golden age was destroyed by the golden M restaurants and the new concept of fast food, which has helped to create today’s society where people don’t even know their neightbours and are suspicious of strangers. Ii’s perhaps no coincidende that several of America’s worst mass murders have taken place in McDonald’s.

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