When I a slightly younger man living in the US, there were a few eating places that for me were just not done, like McDonalds and KFC.
Yes, I have eaten at McDonalds, but for most of my life, the bulk of that had all taken place before I had reached the age of consent. I was entirely the victim, but this was back in the 70’s when the golden arches were for special occasions, like say a birthday, good grades or a relative coming home. Nothing said “Uncle Billy finally made parole” Like a Big Mac. Not that I have an Uncle Billy, but if I did, I assume he would have been a petty criminal, in and out of the local slammer giving us plenty of occasions to order styrofoam packed food and giving me material for the ever elusive book I have been wanting to write. But I digress. I personally, even as a little child just never really found anything from McDonalds to be even remotely palatable, much less digestible. Well, maybe the ice cream sundaes, but then it is kind of hard to kill ice cream. I also never understood why, after eating McDonalds, one would have a series of Quarter Pounder with cheese flavored burps. It just isn’t right.
And I also find Ronald McDonald just a tad creepy. I always have and I can’t really explain why. Must be the striped socks.
KFC was a completely different experience. We never actually ate at KFC, those secret herbs and spices were always brought home in a red and white bucket with lots of grease stains on the outside. KFC was not about birthdays or shotgun weddings and was instead almost always reserved for nights when there was a movie on “Wonderful World of Disney”, or perhaps a special “Lawrence Welk”. Maybe it’s just me, but even as a child, a bucket full of breasts, legs and thighs just seemed so, well, icky. Foreshadowing of thing to come? Hmmm… Perhaps.
I would, at times, try to reject eating out of the bucket but it usually ended with someone saying something along the lines of “as long as you are under my roof, young man, you will bloody well eat what I make for you and you will like it!” As I was going through my “I-want-to-be-a-lawyer-when-I-grow-up” phase, I did take the opportunity on several occasions to eloquently argue that walking up to a counter and telling a pimply teenager to “hand over sixteen pieces and throw in some slaw, mashed taters and some of them fresh backed biscuits, will ya” was making dinner. But they weren’t having it. Furthermore, I got weird looks whenever I was asked what I would like for dinner, something that usually happened on my birthday. How was I to know that squab was seen as an unreasonable request from a six year old with a developing, highly discernable palate? And an hour or so later, I would be squeezing ketchup out into the lid of my Styrofoam-ish burger container, angrily dipping my fries, wondering what I had done to deserve this, dreaming of the squab I was missing. And wondering what squab actually was. But Joan Collins, who I was once obsessed with, had mentioned it on TV so it was high on my list of likes.
Moving abroad changes people. It does. One cannot move abroad, at least to a place like India and remain unchanged. And now, on a not so infrequent basis, I find myself cringing as I order up a McChicken or a Zinger with cheese at one of the previously mentioned chains. But Delhi is transforming rapidly and now, much to my dismay, one of my favorite foods is available inside one of my most unliked theme restaurants, and so it was yesterday, that I strutted into the Hard Rock Café here in New Delhi for a real live cheeseburger. With real beef. Imported. It isn’t In-N-Out, but one can’t be picky when beef is basically forbidden and in the past two years I have had to buy it on the black market and cook it on the BBQ under cover of darkness with only a select group of edge-livers like myself.
Like KFC and McDonalds, I had been to Hard Rock before. When I didn’t know any better, when it was in Beverly Hills and New York City and when it was possible to run into Molly Ringwald, Emilio Estevez, Ally Sheedy, Demi Moore or Rob Lowe on any given night. But HRC quickly went from being the place to be to being off the map and I avoided it at all costs.
That is, until it opened in Delhi and my curiosity got the better of me. I went to see if they might have real burgers. Not lamb or chicken or veggie, but real beef that had once been roaming the plains in real cows. I know if my “make-promise-you-no-eat-cow” landlord knew what I was up to when I left the building, I would be thrown from the roof. But this will be our little secret.
So, yes, yesterday I sat in a completely deserted Hard Rock Café, directly under some thing that Steven Tyler had worn at some gig or another a couple of decades ago, eating my beefy cheeseburger and having a Danish beer while waiting for Ankit to arrive. We were going to the film. As usual, he was late and then refused to come into the restaurant. I at first admired his reserve, assuming he didn’t want to be seen exiting such a place, but I later found out the truth was much deeper than that. I asked him why he didn’t do inside and his reply was “I don’t like that kind of music” It was only when I told him that they don’t play hard rock music and had just run a clip of a corset clad Madonna that I saw the twinkle of reconsideration his eye.
On a side note, in typing this, I accidentally misspelled “McDonalds” and guess what? It is in the Word spell checker.
Now that worries me.