McDonalds makes good fries because it turns out that making good fries is chemistry and the issues in question are the water content of the potato and the heat of the oil. If the water content of the potato is just right, the outside of the fry with crisp and the inside will get fluffy and white. Too much water, and the insides steam and you get a fried boiled potato. The whole affair gets greasy and nasty, especially once they aren't hot. Unfortunately, potatoes are organic and their water content is determined by where and how they grow and what the weather and temperature is. So McDonalds has developed a very sophisticated system by which farmers grow specific types of potatoes which are then laid out in warehouses and monitored until they have dehydrated a bit to the correct percentage of water. I'm not saying that there aren't better fries than McDonalds fries, and McDonalds fries do suffer a bit from employee error--they can be undercooked, overcooked, or left to stand too long, despite those deep fryers with the loud beeping alarms. After all, who hasn't been in a fast food place where the deep fryer is loudly announcing that something is done, and nobody seems to fish the basket out of the oil for long, long beeping minutes. But McDonalds french fries are a pretty good fry benchmark. My taste for potatoes remains pretty much unchanged.
I could risk a buck on a cheeseburger then, knowing that I could always console myself with the fries. I stood for a moment, contemplating ordering a Big Mac. When I lived in New York City and never ate fast food, Big Macs were a secret vice of mine. I came back to Ohio craving them. They're awful--the food equivalent of drugs, nothing but fat and salt and a bit of sugar. Nutritional sin, with a bit of shredded lettuce, like a stripper in a G string. But I wasn't all that hungry and besides, I was really aware that I might take a bite of the thing and want to spit it out. Best, I thought, to start modest.
I bought my cheeseburger, wrapped in its yellow Micky D wrapper and took it over to the table and unwrapped it. I busied myself salting fries and getting the catsup right to dip the fries. Ate a couple of fries. The cheeseburger sat there in its soft, slightly steamed bun, the meat pretty much hidden by the slice of processed cheese food, all the colors as primary as a Fisher Price toy. I tasted it.
It tasted fine.
Which just proves what I have always suspected. I'm not a hamburger person. I never make them at home. I rarely order them out. But I like McDonalds burgers. Why? Because there is so little meat, they don't taste like beef. I will now burn in hell because of the dreadful lack of standards in the meat processing industry and the three dollars and change I have contributed to the agri-industrial complex (read Fast Food Nation for more on this issue.) I swear, for the next week, all my meat will be humanely raised. But I have to admit, I liked my McDonalds cheeseburger. And the fries were good, too.