Food on the Fast Lane.


Fast food is synonymous with swiftness and quick on the trigger service. With a hungry, tired and fussy nine year old walking all evening in Champs Elysees in Paris I was kind of compelled to rush into the first visible McDonald’s. Left to myself I would gladly walk a few more miles to eat some of the much acclaimed street food than at any McDonald’s. Instant gratification has become the norm of the day. Hence we have the advent of fast food in today’s super fast world! Prompt service brings them the brisk business. When I walked into this McDonald’s it looked like any other fast food place, crowded and bustling with long lines. Deciding on sandwiches and coffee was easy. I cushioned myself on a cozy corner while my husband made it to the line at the counter. I was quite enjoying the spirited and vivacious feel of the place. My daughter‘s restlessness brought my attention to the fact that my husband was waiting in line for too long. The line hardly moved. He seemed to be in the same spot for eternity. We were getting impatient as we failed to comprehend any complexity that could arise in an order of simple sandwich and coffee Americano. Finally when the food arrived our patience paid off. I must confess it tasted like nothing I have eaten at McDonald in USA. It tasted way more delicious than I ever expected. The good taste of the food changed our mood completely. I began to see things with a different perspective. I watched the men work at the counter. I was surprised at the laid back pace they worked at a fast food chain. The attendant at the counter is in no mood to rush his customer. He had all the time in the world to wait on his customers and let them decide on the order. He is relaxed as he punches the orders on the machine. The enormous length of the line adding on every minute does not ruffle him in any way. He tears up little slips of paper for each item ordered , putting them on the table behind him for the next line man to pick up . He sets up a tray bringing in each item going to and fro several times before the tray is complete. The reality of being in Paris has just struck me. Food is an art crafted and prepared with time, patience, care and love. Even at a McDonald, food can be devoured not just eaten. It is also a time to socialize and catch up. Rushing with food is a sacrilege. It is against their cultural ethos. There were no Drive-Thru that I noticed, nor did I find any disposable cups, plates and paper napkins.


Even at a local patisserie the hostess took her time to prepare and serve the food in proper china accompanied with silver and napkins in fabric. As I am always on the quest for exceptional food experiences all these differences did stand out. I never imagined that this exposure at a McDonald’s could be something that I would ever write about. The momentum and promptness of preparing and serving food comes as a sharp contrast with another joint that I am familiar with. A small town place in South Philadelphia is well worth a mention here. Known to be the birth place and home of Philly cheese steaks are the two shops Pat’s and Geno’s. Much publicized is their arch rivalry as they stand right across the street from each other. The place has a feel of a carnival at any time of the day or night. The long serpentine lines here are no surprise. The celebrities and commoners from all parts of America throng here for their midnight Philly cheese steaks. The sprightly surprise is actually sprung when one finds out the mercurial speed at which the lines move. The zippy service at the counter could leave you breathless. One is expected to be preparing himself for the order deciding on his type of cheese topping and contents while standing in line. One has to be confident and concise to avoid frowns and delays while ordering. “One whizz with” is all you say while you order a cheese steak with whizz cheese and fried onions. The buoyancy and precision of service at the counter adds to the uniqueness of the food. By the time you ordered here, the money is taken and the cheese steak is already out of the window– hot and ready to be eaten! It is strange how rapidly the connotation of fast food changes as we travel across a continent! There is a sea change in the food scenario across the seas. For one food is to be relished at leisure with pleasure and repose. It is an indulgence, their joie de vivre. For others food is blitz, thrill, action and excitement. It is their titillation. For some life’s pleasure comes in small packages, yet there are others who think the bigger is the better. My thirst for the extraordinaire food experience is quenched by both. They are exceptional in their distinct ways.