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In poor neighborhoods, McDonald’s have become de-facto community centers (theguardian.com)
314 points by wallflower on June 14, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 428 comments

McDonalds is the only restaurant I enjoy eating at with my 2 and 3 year olds. Every other restaurant is a slog to get through the meal. Honestly I'd eat there more often if it weren't for the social stigma of it. (I live in Berkeley).

I am pretty sure the cheeseburger, apple slices, and chocolate milk are not much worse, and probably better, than the typical fare on a slapped together kids meal.

When I was a kid, my dad would take me to the local McDonalds to do math, several times a week. They'd let us sit there ordering nothing but sodas in a comfy booth for hours. These are some of my fondest childhood memories.

There are some issues with McDonalds, but it is a pleasant user experience.

People finding community of some form is not just a good thing, it's an essential thing to human life. It should always be lauded. However, there is a lot of socioeconomic and sub-cultural in-group/out-group judgement in US society, all of which feels absolutely justified by those doing the judging.


In reality, it's all exactly the same sort of crap that was portrayed on Mad Men. Such prejudice is the same, whether it is enacted by tweed jacket wearing Ivy Leaguers, rural low-brow native americans, "poor white trash," urban black people, affluent Koreans, undergraduate students, "Social Justice Warriors," or Bay Area programmers. I should know, because I've been on the receiving end of it from all of the above, while also being a member of about half those groups. (Often having diametrically opposed things projected onto me!)

When it comes down to it, people should be given a chance as individuals, not summarily judged as units of a group. (Martin Luther King Jr. put it best...)

I swear, when I hear some fellow "liberals" talking about their own rural underclass or Republicans or Christians, the kind of disdain that comes across seems like something that should no longer exist in the 21st century, outside of movies about the Jim Crow south.

> Knowing, for example, that the Founding Fathers were all secular deists. Knowing that you're actually, like, 30 times more likely to shoot yourself than an intruder. Knowing that those fools out in Kansas are voting against their own self-interest and that the trouble is Kansas doesn't know any better. Knowing all the jokes that signal this knowledge.

Doesn't Vox exist to perpetuate this kind of nonsense? It's undergraduate level politics dressed up as stone tablet commandments. Isn't Vox's very reason to provide political analysis to those otherwise 'too stupid' to know what's going on?

Yes, this is exactly why Vox exists. Which is both why Vox is the best place for that article and the place where its core message will go unheard.

This, from today, is another classic of the genre.

A Guardian columnist walking round one of the UK's poorest districts bewildered that white working class people do not share his opinions on the European Union:


“Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts.”

Smugness is certainly a fact, but so is that brexit will leave the UK economically worse off in pretty much all respects. Especially the poor.

No, that is not a fact at all. It's a guess. A projection. You have no idea what the EU is going to look like in five years, let alone twenty or thirty.

>Smugness is certainly a fact, but so is that brexit will leave the UK economically worse off in pretty much all respects. Especially the poor.

Citation needed. But not those made-up by economists, pundits and bureaucrats making money by being pro-EU and working within EU organization and with EC money...

It's like global warming. You can always find a crackpot who has a contrary opinion, but the fact that every single "neutral" economist apart from those with a monetary interest in Brexit agrees is a pretty strong indication - from the IMF over US investment banks to the Chinese government and the UK statistics authority - not to speak of stock markets and FX markets which sell off everytime the risk of Brexit rises, and rally when the risk of Brexit falls. So people put their money where their mouth is.

The top American "neutral" economists told us that everything was great in the real estate market right before 2008.

Sterling is up against USD since March. Besides, a low pound can be good for exports/manufacturing. The idea that if the pound drops against the USD it's categorically "bad" is untrue and simplistic.

When David Cameron was campaigning, he said he'd be glad to have a referendum and he thought that a Brexit might actually be better for the UK. Thanks to that he was voted in with a majority, and promptly changed his tune to saying a Brexit would be lead to a catastrophe. Funny how he changed his mind so quickly. Also funny how the "neutral" economists didn't pipe up to correct Cameron during the election.

> The top American "neutral" economists told us that everything was great in the real estate market right before 2008.

The US housing bubble collapse was widely and publicly predicted by leading independent (that is, those not working for banks or government) economists of every political stripe for many years before the collapse.

Those independent economists were not the ones being trotted out on the media talk shows back then, and there's no reason to think the independent economists would be trotted out now for this Brexit debate.

> Those independent economists were not the ones being trotted out on the media talk shows back then

They were widely reported in major news media, including appearances on "media talk shows".

Only after-the-fact, when the burst was clearly visible...

Widely reported? It was just the opposite.

> Funny how he changed his mind so quickly.

Politicians being politicians. Here's Borris before and now.


I don't really believe there are neutral economists. Not many in any case. Almost all economists are involved with government's, policy decisions, and financial institutions and interests.

And they comingle with people in power and others with large interests all the time.

It's like having a computer science professor in "databases" that's also a stakeholder in MongoDB.

>which sell off everytime the risk of Brexit rises, and rally when the risk of Brexit falls. So people put their money where their mouth is.

That's only short term assets they play with -- to make a quick buck on the uncertainty before and after a Brexit--, it doesn't show anything with regards to the medium- and long-term prospects of a Brexit.

Worth bearing in mind that most of those "neutral" economists also said it would be a great idea for the UK to join the Euro.

I'm from Kansas. I grew up with these kinds of voters. The problem isn't that they "don't know any better". It's that the way the party system is aligned in the U.S., you can vote for one side that may help your economic situation but is pretty much in favor of everything you abhor socially, or you can vote for the other side that won't do much for you economically, but at least pretends to care about the same things you do.

If the Republicans made themselves more like the Lib Dems in Australia, or the Christian Dems in Germany they'd have a clean sweep. But then they'd also lose Wall Street, large chunks of the Libertarian wing of Silicon Valley, and would probably end up having to fracture first.

Though maybe the Lib Dems are a bad example as they've swung further right and closer to the U.S. conservatives as time goes on.

The LDP are a bit of a joke party in Australia, did you just mean the Coalition?

Probably. Still figuring some of these parties out. All I know here is that many of the issues like healthcare, gun control, smoking regulations, etc. are mostly supported by both the left-leaning and right-leaning parties here. But support for any one of these issues would be enough to get you kicked out of the Republicans in the U.S.

The point being, you could likely make a party in the U.S. that kept most of the socially conservative stuff from the GOP and still picked up more of the economically "liberal" issues in the U.S., many of which are moderate in Europe, Australia, and elsewhere, and make it work.

That's exactly what Trump has tapped into (ie anti-free trade like the left; anti-immigration, pro-life, pro-guns like the right). It's the same populism underlying early 20th century European movements.

>Doesn't Vox exist to perpetuate this kind of nonsense? It's undergraduate level politics dressed up as stone tablet commandments.

They seem like basic facts to me. Not even arguable.

Yes, Vox does exist to perpetuate that exact liberal nonsense. That's why Emmett Rensin, a communist, critiqued smug liberalism there.

You can find deeply troubling things about all cultures. White, black, brown, rich, poor, middle class, young, old, doctors, brick layers, or welfare recipients. Atheists, Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, and Buddhists all have beliefs that seem wrong to people both inside and outside of those groups.

Pretending groups are somehow above criticism is more about manners than fact.

PS: I have watched several people become more and sometimes less racist after moving to DC. This has far more about cultural friction than the people involved.

People need to be aware of the distinction between criticizing cultural/sub-cultural mores/ideologies and criticizing individuals. In the US, the two seem to get very often confused.

Individuals are individuals. Sub-cultural mores are products (distortions) of the media. The two are not the same. However, the latter seems to have tremendous power in framing public debate.

Cultures are frameworks for viewing the world. Some early anti drug adds actually backfired and promoted drug use as some people started to associate 'cool kids' and drugs. Some groups associate 'Long hours' with hard work and dedication, others view them as a sign your not working hard enough.

Not that everyone in a group identifies with every assumption of that group, but these things are more complex than simply being shaped by the all powerful media.

these things are more complex than simply being shaped by the all powerful media.

This notion itself is becoming more nebulous with the rise of social media. Traditional media has lost much of its power, and much of that power has been taken over by social media. When the media merges with and to a large extent becomes us, what happens? I'm not so sure.

That some have and others have not become more racist after moving to DC means it's primarily about the people involved. If it can't be generalized on "moving to DC," then the distinctions have to be evaluated on finer data.

Your criticism isn't internally consistent. For the sake of argument, let's say that racism is quantifiable. It probably isn't, but saying people get more or less racist pretty much implied that it is, so just run with it for a second. Say that after moving to DC, everyone's racism level gradually moves towards 75. That obviously means it's about DC, not the people. But some people started at 30 and some people started at 90. So some people get less racist and some get more racist.

The statement I was responding to was, "This has far more about cultural friction than the people involved."

Your reply supports this: whether they do or don't (and to what degree) is an individual matter. I wasn't disputing that experience can change a person's attachment to racism.

It's not that a specific person does a specific things that's bad. It's that cultures have different takes on accepted behaviors. Some behavior that seems more or less ok in culture A, is going to piss people off from culture B. Do you stand on the left or right side of a hallway when talking down it?

At the same time you will find people going against type regularly. Which has a moderating effect. It's hard to think X are bums when you see hard working people from X.

I think my contrived example implies the exact opposite. If their new level is largely determined by where they live and work, why wouldn't you expect the same of the old one? Perhaps the 30 moved from New York, while the 90 moved from San Francisco.

Don't assume everyone is starting from the same point. There are many successful people from all walks of life in DC, but you also see people imposing on others in public. Sure, it's only the worst 5% that's causing problems but get enough people together and that 5% can get really annoying.

I also often see people complain about their own ethic group a lot, though this is more about class than race.

I agree.

I have noticed a strange flip-flop over the last 30 years or so. While the most prominent in and out groups have changed, the folks who used to talk the most trash about outsiders are now much more reticent. Now many of the folks who used to complain about getting put down are now the ones (mostly in private, but many times in public) with all the trash talk, i.e., acting like they always thought all the other guys did. (This was never actually the case, though.)

I hear friends talking about their neighbors and community in terms I know for a fact are not reciprocated -- and it goes far beyond just condescending. It's a bitter, desolate, and spiteful thing. You'd think they were marooned living in a cave with Stone Age man, waiting for the next human sacrifice to occur.

Very strange. I wonder if they know how they sound to others? We need a name for these guys. "Redneck Liberals" comes to mind. Perhaps "Faux Progressives"

Political jargon already has a term for this. When someone claims to be a member of political demographic A, but his ideals are more closely aligned with, or he secretly supports political demographic B, he is said to be a crypto-B.

For example, liberals might hyperbolicly call Trump a crypto-fascist, and Sanders supporters might call Clinton a crypto-Conservative, or a crypto-neoliberal. Granted, it's not used in mainstream political discourse much, but I hear it more on the fringes, and it probably has some academic use.

People in the US need to be more aware of the Authoritarian <-> Anti-Authoritarian spectrum in politics. There are some people on the left who are very authoritarian, while there are others who instead prioritize individual rights. In the us, the term "Libertarian" has been placed on the political right, while the "left" is a mishmash of very Authoritarian and Anti-Authoritarian views.


It used to be that the left was anti-authoritarian and the right was authoritarian. Libertarians were extremely anti-authoritarian. What has evolved, however, was that "soft" libertarianism got co-opted by the right. The left also co-opted libertarians, but not to the degree the right did. As the right gained more libertarians, it gave up some of its boardroom elitism. The result here was that the right's base become less elite while the left's base became more elite. (Because in the disparity of how both sides appealed to the libertarian center. In addition the left was naturally filled with smaller, more organized and fervent groups around a single cause, while the right had a broader base)

Then both the right and left became more and more authoritarian (along with the associated in-and-out clanning behavior) What with endless wars and the security state, I think we're seeing the end of the ride for the natural libertarians on the right. Perhaps the left too. Remains to be seen.

It will be interesting to see if the coming election involves a split in either/both major parties, and if so, along what fault line that split occurs.

>It used to be that the left was anti-authoritarian and the right was authoritarian. Libertarians were extremely anti-authoritarian. What has evolved, however, was that "soft" libertarianism got co-opted by the right. The left also co-opted libertarians, but not to the degree the right did.

Since the "right" as we know it remains, as ever, in favor of banning gay marriage, recreational marijuana, and alcohol sales on certain days of the week, I'm very skeptical that this story happened as described.

>the "right" as we know it

Insert standard parable of the blind men talking funny about elephant parts. Like it or not, there's at least five "right" wings and its like herding cats. The Christians were dominant maybe two decades ago, neocons were dominant for awhile, not so much recently. You can guess who's on the rise and the progs don't like it very much.

1) Neocon / megacorporate lackey. Never seen an eternal war their defense contractors who pay their re-election funds don't love. Koch Bros. Loves immigration; the middle/lower classes and the whites are to be eliminated. Thinks "Brazil" and "1984" and "brave new world" are instruction manuals. Loves income inequality. Globalist Imperialists. Basically they embrace their inner "bad guy James Bond villain" rather than suppress it. Some women (and men) really like the bad boys. Popularity in the population was much higher in the recent past. Have more money than they know what to do with, none the less struggle to get votes. These guys buy ads on social media and run campaigns.

2) Evangelical progressive Christian. If your church has electric guitars and spotlights and a projection TV and glitter as part of ceremonies you are here. Also see prosperity gospel and theological concept of "buddy jesus". This is where small local businessmen chill. Foreign policy is turn the other cheek. Weakest nominal attachment to the R party. Can't get these people to stop social signalling on facebook ("like and share this prayer" etc)

3) Bible belt southerners. If your church hates gays you are here. Strange alliance with Utah churches. Doesn't like alcohol, caffeine, or weed. Mostly a group defined by who and what they don't like. Like abortion, for example. These guys don't use computers or social media because those and Dungeons and Dragons are a tool of the devil.

4) Establishment / conventional wisdom / co-opted psuedo controlled opposition. These are the guys you see on TV and in congress. Maybe if we steal the platform of the progs from 20 years ago they'll love us. Cut to chase, no, the progs still hate them. Generally don't care about anything but gaining power. Kind of like neocons but less spine and much lower energy. Thinks about morals and ethics in terms of voting poll percentages. These guys buy ads on social media.

5) Alt right / 1488 / Libertarian crowd. Explosively growing. Trump. Average age is about half the above groups or lower. Smokes weed but calls it degenerate when others smoke up. Looks at gays the same way. Build a wall. Abortion is OK but to be avoided. This wing is meme central. Some memes: An alt right is a libertarian who finally noticed the worlds average IQ is below 120. Another meme: A 1488 is a guy who figured out the dominant belief of progs is they are anti-white people. The only group with a sense of humor, which is unfortunately (or entertainingly?) caustic and corrosive and so dark its like blacker than black humor. Foreign policy is non-interventionist, anti-imperialist and anti-globalist. Generally broadly speaking anti-corporate and anti-social media.

Prosperity gospel types are turn the other cheek on foreign policy?

Bible belt southerners _don't_ use projectors and bands? What do they use then? I would have thought choir and organ churches were the more left/liberal - they are in Europe.

I'm not saying you're wrong, but this sounds very odd to me.

Ok, I'm no expert on streams of right-wing ideology, but grouping together, "1488" and the "libertarian crowd" is just unfair to libertarians. Like, sure, libertarians believe in an insane liberal-capitalist ideology, but they don't use jocular-sounding memes as code for "Heil Hitler" (http://he.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=1488).

Republicans call Republicans they don't like RINO (Republican in Name Only). Democrats call Democrats they don't like Republican.

>For example, liberals might hyperbolicly call Trump a crypto-fascist, and Sanders supporters might call Clinton a crypto-Conservative, or a crypto-neoliberal. Granted, it's not used in mainstream political discourse much, but I hear it more on the fringes, and it probably has some academic use.

I don't think that there's anything particularly crypto about Clinton's neoliberalism. She helped create the New Democrats. She may not use the term "neoliberal" on the campaign trail, but the house intellectuals of her own movement applied it to themselves.

I've seen it called the "regressive left" in a few places.

I've seen the use of "illiberal left" by social psychologists like Jonathan Haidt (disclosure, I'm a big fan of Haidt), and I find it more appropriate, especially as there are progressive leftists espousing illiberal ideals.

Of course, the gotcha with all such labels is that there are many liberal leftists who hear the term illiberal left and reflexively assume it applies tangentially to them, leading them to deny the existence altogether.

Anecdotally, a friend of mine in California is a huge Bernie Sanders supporter. Has attended rallies, fund-raised, and even designed T-shirts to promote Bernie's messages. A few weeks ago he apparently attended a private party of Bernie Sanders supporters, then messaged me back with "Wow, you'd been saying people like this existed, and I didn't believe it. These guys made me feel much more moderate than I once did."

This in itself is a very strong, errm, cultural signifier.

""Redneck Liberals" comes to mind. "

I don't think people realize just what a late group this really is. Often times they're more under the Libertarian umbrella, though, but still... there's more shades of purple than there are red or blue.

Actually, one of my best friends in Texas is a "Redneck Liberal" but he's more of the "slightly to the left of Mao" sort than he is a Libertarian.

there's more of those here than people think... :)


Houston. He's rabidly anti-corporate and anti-1%. he's also pretty rabidly anti-gun, yet he owns a revolver. He's totally "do as I say, not as I do" about that issue!

I think a discussion of tone is a worthwhile discussion to have, although I believe you agree that it does not constitute a valid counterargument against[0] any side. I do agree there is an unfortunate smugness amongst many liberals that is unsettling to me, but it's a little different than the "Jim Crow south." Sorry, but AGW, the economic state of Kansas after the tax cuts, the evidence behind the theory of evolution are not "opinions", they are studied facts and/or statistics, many of them in published reputable journals. However, one's opinions about "the negro" are not scientific facts, and differences between the races has been rejected by most scientists. These are not the same.

And sure, one can somewhat respect the rights of a human being who denies scientific evidence, and I do believe many liberals need to be receptive and open-minded to others' arguments even when they violate their deepest convictions. The rise of safe-spaces and vehement protests against conservative speakers shows that libs are not great in this regard either. You need not and should not make fun of their heritage, their accent or make assumptions about their personality or behavior. At the very least, if you really don't care about being fair, disregarding evidence without offering a counterargument or giving a reason[1] is bad enough of a sin that no one needs anything else to accuse an opponent of.

[0] http://paulgraham.com/disagree.html

[1] I really mean this, a discussion is the right thing that needs to happen.

I do agree there is an unfortunate smugness amongst many liberals that is unsettling to me, but it's a little different than the "Jim Crow south."

It's the behavior/mental stance that I'm calling out. Being the victor doesn't entitle one to be a douchebag. Being right doesn't entitle one to be a douchebag. If one subscribes to humanism and to being humane, then it simply doesn't do to view certain people as being less than human. Just because their views are less valid in your opinion, that doesn't make them less valid.

So long as you can make this distinction, you're fine in my book.

>I swear, when I hear some fellow "liberals" talking about their own rural underclass or Republicans or Christians

It seems like intolerance follows pendulum shift every 30 years or so. Liberals have the new intolerance, its just incredible how much disdain there is for everyone who isn't to the left of Elizabeth Warren and my god, the SJW stuff is out of control.

I have no idea if we've hit a peak with this stuff yet, but its hard to imagine how much worse in can get.

Professor Stearns at CMU says that the definition of morality is that which the lower classes and ethnic minorities are not (it adapts over time to maintain this separation). That explains lots of what you mention. He wrote The Battleground of Desire, which tracks the development of American morality since the Victorian era.

Professor's tend to have very narrow fields of study and often their views try to bend reality to fit through their particular field. In this case, it sounds like a somewhat standard (as in common place) form of Marxism -- wherein most all societal concerns are driven by classism (and ultimately economic concerns).

Hogwash. Now, Professor Stearns almost certainly has valid, well researched points which we could use to adjust certain policies, but humans are very much more than economic creatures , though it seems like we forget this readily nowadays in the US. This also means there are many more factors influencing American societal and mores than class divides. There's many strong cultural factors driving various network effects and topologies which require more complex analysis to understand. E.g. trying to use a first level "approximation" will fail to rationally understand our society. Besides in places like California even the idea of a white/Caucasian majority isn't even valid anymore.

Its quite refreshing to hear you say that last sentence. Being labelled a bigot, self righteous or any of several other generalisations, because I believe Jesus was who he said he was, is a little hard to understand at times.

Yet your entire post is judgmental text applied to some vague out-group...

> When I was a kid, my dad would take me to the local McDonalds to do math, several times a week. They'd let us sit there ordering nothing but sodas in a comfy booth for hours. These are some of my fondest childhood memories.

This made me smile, as my dad and I did the exact same thing. He would get coffee and I would get eggs and hashbrowns before we set out on the days errands, and I remember doing long division problems with crayons for fun. I hadn't thought of those days in a very long time, thank you :)

If they have them available in your area Chic-fil-a's are also great for kids. Their service is top notch and their stores are almost always spotless. Also they seem to have really great kids areas, every time I see one I am so jealous of the crap kids areas I had available as a child..

I've heard that many people like the store and the food, but I've also heard that the owner (and main profit taker) has some distressingly reprehensible views about taking freedoms and liberty from others so I've never eaten there and actively refrain from doing so.

I 2nd that for Chick-fil-a being good for kids. They give out a quality kids book with the meal and the book can be turned in for an ice cream cone. Chick-fil-a has playplaces, too, but they are not quite as big as the ones at McD.

The founder of CfA had controversial conservative views, but he is dead now, so you don't have to let that stop you anymore. Personally I wish they had stay out of politics altogether.

I was hoping this was true. The original owner died, but his son, the current owner, was the one in the news and that actively supports the controversial groups


Not stating support one way or the other, just an alternative perspective to this situation. While they may not be in support of aspects of certain lifestyles, they do seem to be in support of the individuals and community around it:


It sounds like you had a great childhood. My parents weren't really active with my academics, so that carried over with until it was time for college. Luckily I'll be a first generation college graduate in December.

Congratulations, that is a great achievement!

Thanks. I've been told that before. It kind of feels like I just woke up one day and knew how to program and was about to graduate from a 4 year University majoring in CS (state school). If I have kids, I want them to have many options when it comes to college time.

edit: spelling

Congratulations! Please do more with that accomplishment than my Dad did, which was apparently to think, "I did it on my own, so you should be able to, too." Please try to pass your college-graduation skills to the next generation and your peers. :)

Yeah it's definitely not bad or gross any more, at least in some parts. Their coffee is the best at that price point as well.

A friend of mine services kitchen equipment for a living (in the UK), he regularly tells me McDonald's are the cleanest establishments he visits.

imo mcdonald's coca-cola taste is the best because they're the only ones that clean their fountainheads regularly.

I can vouch for that. Our McDonalds cleaned them every night-thoroughly. Our restaurant was also really quite clean. Even the 'icky' bits got a thorough cleaning at least once a week-our maintenance guy would break down the fryers and grill area and polish them to a shine.

Be glad you don't know what a horrible task that is -- "cleaning the vats". Especially the one used for Filet-o-Fish all week.

And the cleaning agent remains in the oil for subsequent frying. (Or that was the practice 30 years ago, anyway.)

It's easy to keep clean nowadays now that, for most hours of the day, nothing but fries are actually cooked in real time -- just reheated and assembled.

It's not like the old days, where you could get any sandwich fresh as a custom order, and otherwise a maximum of 10 minutes post-wrap hold time.

Oddly, several Jack-in-the-Boxes here are the most clean, with Carl's Jr. being worst -- a complete inversion from 20 years ago.

Another one you might want to try: Buffalo Wild Wings. We have 3 little kids and it's so loud in there that when they act up, nobody notices. Kids meals are probably no worse than McDonalds.

Oh, and free Android tablets! You can really bask in the judgement of others :)

In our town, it is the local Chili's that is full of loud kids. It is quite relaxing to take your own kids someplace where you don't have to worry too much about their behavior b/c nobody will really notice.

Yup. If there were more eateries that made as much effort to be kid-friendly as McDonald's (and I'm not talking about the food, I'm talking about the toys and the playplace) I'd get out more.

It's actually quite frustrating because my kids and I are vegetarians and while the wrap suits me just fine, my kids get stuck with their mediocre grilled cheese sandwiches (vegetarian children are still children - they think the wrap is weird).

It's not that I need every place to go to the lengths the clown does. I don't expect Pita Pit or my local felafel place to build playgrounds. I just wish there was a second chain providing this kind of product.

Where do you live where McDonald's sells vegetarian wraps and grilled cheese?


Oh wow. Those options are not available in the US, I wish they were. However, all day breakfast is available now and egg McMuffin sans ham is a good option for me.

Yeah, the all-day breakfast thing isn't being done here. The grilled cheese they have is just another option for kids' meals like mcnuggets and burgers - they don't really advertise it but it's good for my family.

Did they have that brief experiment with the Santa Fe wrap and the Mediterranean Vegetable vegetarian wraps? The latter involved feta cheese, and you can imagine how wonderous McDonald's feta cheese was. In the end they killed the Santa Fe wrap but they made the Mediterranean wrap better, and so now that's my go-to McFood.

They didn't experiment with those wraps in my area if at all.

Isn't the whole thing with fastfood that you can take it anywhere - so grab some and go to the community playground?

I mostly take the kids to McDonalds when the weather's bad, personally. The play place is a good way to get out of the house and do something energetic despite the rain or snow.

Interesting I don't think any McDo have play areas in the UK - sometimes there's a little corner with a TV and some colouring stuff, or I used to see them at least. Some of the larger chain pubs have play areas but they're usually outside. Do the restaurants charge for the play area, are their age limits?

They don't charge, but there are age limits. The play areas here are this dense structure of interconnecting cubic sections they climb up inside, with a couple of slides, bubble-windows, and inlaid rotating kaleidoscope things to play with.

That'll stop when your kids taste the French fries. After that you'll have a battle to get them to accept the apple slices.

> I am pretty sure the cheeseburger, apple slices, and chocolate milk are not much worse, and probably better, than the typical fare on a slapped together kids meal.

Sounds like a false dichotomy. Why not prepare actual healthy food, and not 'slapped together kids meal' ?

McDonald's has some healthy options, wraps, salads, etc. They are a lot less popular though.

Have you looked at the ingredient labels? They are still crap. Salad is Iceberg lettuce, may as well eat cardboard. Salad dressings are high sugar highly processed fat free crap. Wraps are made with HFCS and a bunch of preservatives.

(Not saying most fast food is better, but McDonalds is about a 10/10 on the crap-o-meter).

You're wrong. The salad is a mixture of kale, romaine lettuce, and other ingredients. Looks like you haven't looked at the ingredient labels.

Southwest Grilled Chicken Salad: Ingredients: Romaine Lettuce, Baby Spinach, Carrots, Baby Kale, Lollo Rossa Lettuce, Red Leaf Lettuce, Red Oak Lettuce, Red Tango Lettuce, Red Romaine Lettuce, Red Butter Lettuce. Ingredients May Vary.

Source: http://www.mcdonalds.com/content/us/en/food/full_menu/salads...

  Ingredients May Vary
I should hope so. Chicken is not listed there, in any form!

Speaking of which, a general note: never, ever buy anything with Mechanically Processed poultry or pork... or at least read about exactly what that means first.

What is your objection to mechanically processed meat? Sure, the process doesn't sound appetizing, but it's a way to ensure that all the meat on an animal is used, which IMHO is a good thing.

Also, for what it's worth, neither chicken nuggets nor the beef patties at McDonalds are made with mechanically separated meat anymore.

<What is your objection to mechanically processed meat?>

If it meets your definition of "meat", by all means stick with it. Just be aware of what MSM really is.

<neither chicken nuggets nor the beef patties at McDonald's are made with mechanically separated meat anymore>

The beef patties never were (it's illegal -- do you know why?) Their chicken nuggets originally were.

It seems like MSM is awesome, from a quick Googling. Humans really should be eating bone marrow, organs, etc. to get full nutrition from our meals - and the process reduces waste, which means less animals can be slaughtered.

I totally get why cow MSM is banned, considering mad cow disease.

By all means, dig in, then. You can have my share. Lots of Sara Lee brands sausages and such (e.g. Hillshire Farm) have loads of it.

But it's mainly connective tissue with little nutritional value -- padding. And I'm not satisfied that pork MSM is completely safe from prion disease.

That was copied and pasted from the Salad ingredients. The full list is at http://www.mcdonalds.com/us/en/food/product_nutrition.salads... (click "Nutrition & Ingredients")

It probably depends on a country as MacDonalds restaurants are often franchise and use mostly local products. In my country it's entirely Iceberg too.

Products are standardized not by the franchise, but by the company. Franchise owners cannot use anyone but McDonald's suppliers. In your country they probably haven't rolled out the new menu items, when was the last time you checked?

It is odd how people are pretending everyone has the same health goals. Some people need extra calories most of us do not. Don't want too many calories or sugars? Order an egg mcmuffin with no muffin.

I can't believe there is people who have the audacity to chastise strangers for sometimes feeding their kids a cheeseburger, apple slices, and chocolate milk.

That's on a normal day, not going out.

Social stigma? Why do you care what other people think?

why do you not? it's a very strongly ingrained part of human nature, and a lot of civilisation depends on it. in particular, the whole notion of a social contract would likely collapse if no one cared what other people thought; neither empathy nor game-theory-style rationality are strong enough as universal motivating factors.

Anyone who has ever said out-loud, "I don't care what anyone thinks," by virtue of their public pronouncement, is hoping that someone cares that they don't care what anyone thinks.

A: "I don't care what people think. People suck, and are so judgmental!"

B: "I too don't care what people think!"

A: "Let's be friends!"

I've said something to that effect to people I'm with because their actions in caring overly much what people think directly inconvenience me.

So suggesting that they don't care so much about something that doesn't matter hopefully makes them think about whether caring what people think is worth the effort.

I care about things that matter. I don't give a shit if someone else dislikes McDonald's or Walmart, I'll eat or shop there if I myself choose to. If they care, that's their problem, and if they bother me about it, they're meddling in things that are none of their business and I wouldn't associate with them anymore.

and to add to that, the headline on the article that we are discussing contains the phrase "McDonald's: you can sneer, but..."

In terms of dining with small children, do you mean fast food or do you specifically mean McDonalds, compared to Burger King, etc.? just curious.

I'm not sure we've eaten at any other fast food restaurants with them! McDonald's tends to be very convenient on road trips.

In general, though they're adventurous eaters at home, they don't eat well in restaurants because they prefer that we are all eating the same thing. And booths are much easier to contain them in than tables.

Living in Seattle, with kids about the same age as yours, I love that my local mcdonalds has an indoor play area. Great for rainy days where the playgrounds are too wet and cold.

There are a couple other places in town to grab a meal and let the kids run around and play indoors, but often they're often more crowded, more expensive, and the food isn't any healthier.

I don't know if this is sad or not but I remember several birthdays when I was very young at McDonalds and Burger King. They had playgrounds and some fun simple games for us to play. I don't believe they charged us for it other than the food we purchased.

I too had some fond memories of those parties.

What's sad is that this culture shames people into questioning whether they ought to depreciate their own precious happy childhood memories, simply because they took place at a now-stigmatized restaurant.

You were a kid then, you had no role in choosing the venue, and you certainly don't bear some kind of moral responsibility for the putative evils of McDonald's as an institution just because you ate a hamburger there when you were six.

Be happy that you got to have fun on a playground with your friends! It is not tainted.

Why do you go to McDonalds at all? Are there no healthier alternatives? Is it a price issue?

Voting becomes slightly even more reddit like then in the years before here. Why am I being downvoted? Without comments.

Take your kids to McDonalds if it makes sense to you. If you base your decisions on how to raise kids based on social norms/stigmas, you're going to make sub-par decisions.

If you base your decisions on how to raise kids based on social norms/stigmas, you're going to make sub-par decisions.

Just like most of the parents in all of history. People all throughout our history have made "sub-par" decisions. You could say it's the "human condition."

> There are some issues with McDonalds, but it is a pleasant user experience.

That's interesting, given that McDonalds purposefully designs it's restaurants to get customers in and out as quick as possible. The chairs are hard, uncomfortable plastic, the music is annoying, and the dining room is always set to some arctic temperature.

Depends on the location. Many McDonald's have quite comfortable seating, like this http://www.giotile.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/McDonalds-... .

What area/country is that in?

They don't really do that anymore. McDonald's isn't really competing with Burger King and Wendy's so much these days as Chipotle, Five Guys, etc.

Most modern McDonald's have quite nice decorum, and many even have wifi.

They just remodeled the one in my town to be pretty comfortable. (Not quite as nice as that one in the photo someone else replied with-- no carpet for one-- but it's quite nice and much nicer than the other fast food places in town.)

I think your information is out of date.

Yes I realize McDonalds is attempting to go upmarket with their interior redesign, but so far this is only implemented in major cities, which I think the sample of HN readers live in large cities, especially SF and NY area, where the vast majority of McDonalds are not located. I used to drive up and down 85 from FL to NY a couple years back. Most McDonalds are as I describe. It doesn't surprise me that the few in the larger cities are nicer and have amenities. I stopped by the one in Charlotte one time and it even had a fireplace and a piano. Those are few and far in-between. Changing? I don't doubt it, they have to try something, they are losing relevancy quickly. Of course, instead of focusing on interior gimmicks and tried to actually make their food good it would do miles more for them than stylistic upgrades. Take In-n-Out burger as the canonical example. Interior is horrible, but most are packed out because the burgers and fries are simply good.

I might also add I worked for McDonalds.

Hey I like going to McDonalds with the kids now and then too. But if this is the only nice place to go where you live I find that truly sad. I love taking my kids out eating but my favorite places are different Italian restaurants. Some area really good at making thin Italian pizza and other are really good with the pasta.

I think it is just because my kids are so young. I am hoping eating out will get more pleasant as they get older.

You can hang out at McDonalds for a while and have room to stretch, not true at sit-down establishments.

Probably better than a real meal made at an restaraunt ? Are you trolling ? Do you know how much preservatives and sugar goes into the food at McDonalds ?

See this video for an idea how long the food at McDonalds takes to rot because of these artificial ingredients:


Also have fun time knowing that each time you visit McDonalds, you are supporting the slavery and killing of intelligent animals just to slap together a cheap as possible meal.

That hamburger was turned into jerky. You could do that to any meat. Preservatives or not

The actual explanation for that video is moisture content, not preservatives / artificial ingredients.


I love this tired old trope.

It doesn't rot because there's no bacteria in it. There's no bacteria in it because it was cooked thoroughly.

Any well-done burger from any restaurant will last a similar amount of time. Try it.

BTW, what animal do they serve is "intelligent"? That one has me curious. The smartest thing on their menu I suppose would be the pork?

Your kids are your kids and it's your choice how to raise them given your financial and time constraints, but teaching a 3-year-old to associate comfort and happiness with unhealthy food doesn't strike me as the wisest decision. When they are old enough and responsible enough for their bodies, they might decide on their own that they enjoy nicotine, corn syrup, salt, starch, and fry oil - but why bias them towards suboptimal choices so early on?

You are pretty much describing the liberal guilt trip that is keeping him from occasionally taking his kids to McDonalds. It's pretty clear it's not the healthiest thing you can eat. It's also probably true that you should teach your kids that if, once in a while, they eat something that is not optimally nutritious (say, on a road trip or as a special treat) they are not going to die.

Yeah, Don Gorske ate nothing but Big Mac for many years, and he's still alive.


I feel like if people skip sugary drinks and large fries they are eating better at McDonald's than most people eat at home.


He's not talking about once in a while - he's talking about several times a week.

We take them approximately once a month.

How often would you go without the stigma?

Maybe twice a month. We typically stop there only when traveling now. We might stroll to the one a half mile from our house for dinner once in awhile otherwise.

McDonald's isn't a large part of our mostly wholesome diet. I feel good about what my kids eat on a day to day basis.

Also, I'm the mother. It's not really germane to the issue, but everyone in this thread assumed otherwise.

It crossed my mind that you didn't specify gender. I just copied what the previous poster had used assuming that they knew from other threads. Sorry for making that assumption.

I'm curious about how the stigma actually plays out - do people you know actually say things to you about it? Would you actually experience more negative interactions if you just did what you want, or has it been internalized because you know people would disapprove?

It is just internalized for me enough so that we usually make another choice for dinner. Also I don't really want the kids to go to preschool and say they had McDonalds for dinner, at about the same level that I don't want to send them to preschool in a dirty shirt.

Once we hadn't been to the grocery store in unusually long, and spent the weekend eating the things in the freezer and the back of the cupboards. We mentioned to the kids that we were out of food. My son went to preschool the next day and congratulated his teachers on always having food available.

In all fairness, Smokey was a male bear.

Do you feel good about berating someone on the internet for going to McDonald's?

I understand why it seemed that way but in this case the charitable interpretation, that zepto was genuinely curious about what the OP meant about stigma, seems also to be the correct one.

Can you point to one thing I've said that has anything to do with berating?

> Your kids are your kids and it's your choice how to raise them.

Full stop. No need to continue with the rest of your judgements.

Parenting is a very hard job, and it's only made worse by all the parents (and even worse--non-parents) that want to make judgements.

Being a parent, I now have a profound respect and appreciation for my parents (especially my mother). Things weren't always great, but they did the best they could.

What kind of attitude is this, really?

Is parenting some sacred thing, immune from analysis or criticism? Does parenting happen outside the realm of logic or reason, where all decisions are good, and any attempt at measurement or objectivity is worthless?

> What kind of attitude is this, really?

"Good internet citizenship."

Keep your criticism relevant to the topic, which was: McDonald's used as a community center in poor neighborhoods. Not, how to teach your kids good eating habits.

> Is parenting some sacred thing, immune from analysis or criticism?

Parenting MY kids, most definitely is sacred.

Sorry friend, but when you told a story about how you parent your kids, you put your parenting within the purview of the topic.

There is nothing sacred about your parenting that makes it above scrutiny. Nothing whatsoever.

I'm not your friend, buddy.

Also, I never told a story about how I parent my kids.

This isn't reddit, no need to meme, and I meant the royal "you". When one brings up one's parenting strategy, it becomes topical.

Maybe because most parents, especially new parents, already get enough of that "friendly advice" from strangers on the street, in the shops, at the park, and everywhere else.

No, not full stop. Just because raising kids, being a police officer, digging a ditch is "hard work" doesn't free someone from having that work criticized.

Strawman Argument.

Actually everyone should be free from being criticized, except for the people with the authority to do so. That goes double for people doing hard work and triple for people doing work that every joe shmoe on the internet thinks himself an expert on.

In other words, my spouse can criticize my parenting everyone else can go frack themselves. Full stop.

No one is free from criticism, what they're free from is being forced to listen to it. No one's making anyone else here participate in the discussion.

Performing hard work doesn't make you immune from doing that work poorly, and it's kind of alarming to me that this insular attitude is so popular on HN.

> they're free from is being forced to listen to it

That's what I've called 'free from being critisized' so yeah. Not sure what you mean by "No one is free from criticism". If you refer to rights of other people to express their critical opinion - sure, let them run their mouths in their own space.

The problems begin (as usual) when A is being forced to listen to B's opinions either because A cannot move away or because Bs are too numerous. That's where I think that B should have to shut up. "Your freedom to fo X ends etc etc". Participating in hard work is an aggravating factor here, meaning B should have to shut the f up right now or be forcefully removed.

In case of doubt just imaging an idiot shouting their mouth at the working surgeon.

Sorry, numerousness or locality are not criteria for removing a person's right to expression.

A needs to learn to tolerate B, basically. A isn't performing surgery, A is trying to write comments on HN.

> A is trying to write comments on HN

Huh? The topic was about people doing hard work. Writing comments is easy.

The topic was McDonald's being used as community centers in poor neighborhoods.

> Being a parent, I now have a profound respect and appreciation for my parents (especially my mother). Things weren't always great, but they did the best they could.

Dude, I was growing up in the dying days of the Soviet Union, with empty shelves and lines and ration cards, and growing vegetables on a little private plot to make it through the winter without vitamin deficiency. I know very well what it's like to try to provide the best you can for your family when the circumstances don't allow you to provide much at all.

But there's an enormous difference between going to a fast food place because the kids are hungry and the fridge is empty and that's the place which is open and nearby and affordable, and regularly bringing kids to a fast food place just because I like the ambience.

And as a general principle, if I am not open to criticism and judgment of others, I am hobbling my ability improve. In any aspect of life. Work or scholarship or raising a child.

I think you missed my point.

OP: shared personal experience related to topic of the article.

You: shared off-topic comment that teaching kids to eat at McD's is not good.

Me: Directly--don't share your judgements on how the OP chooses to parent (also off-topic).

My siblings and I all got the 'bad' happy meal as a reward. Hamburger/nuggets, fries, Coca-cola or Sprite. Oh, and it came with the happy meal box full of activities and an actual toy. None of us developed unhealthy relationships with food or even became overweight.

"I've never known anyone addicted to heroin so I know heroin addiction must never happen..."

> the cheeseburger, apple slices, and chocolate milk

You could do much worse.

> You could do much worse.


Larger portions, fried foods, soda, etc. You are being purposefully difficult if you can't figure this out on your own.

Fried food? Seriously? Do you believe McDonalds has a backroom in their shops where they have a bakery for their apple slices, and in their backyard they are growing apple trees and some lucky cows are wandering between the trees, so they have fresh milk for their chocolate milk?

You are purposely believing all this complete marketing BS so you don't have to feel like a junky if you eat this industrial trashfood.

And I can really not figure out for myself what could be more trashy than McDonalds food. Maybe living solely on peanut butter sandwiches and chocolate, but maybe even that would be better, as they are not full of flavor enhancer.

And actually I am not a McDonalds hater, I love to eat their hamburger. But it's like drinking beer, it's a drug, not food.

Given you basically said "what could be worse than a cheeseburger, apple and chocolate milk?" here's an easier answer - swap the cheeseburger for a double cheeseburger. There's a nice simple example of "could be worse", for you, without even thinking about different menu items available.

The apple: it's raw apple cut into slices... not fried, nor from a fictional bakery that their marketing apparently makes you think they want people to believe.

What does where the cows are milked matter, judge nutritional value between chocolate milk and sugar-filled soda. Maybe your judgement of chocolate milk is negative (sure, it's not the healthiest drink in the world) and I can't say I've ever looked up it's nutrional information, but... it's flavoured milk. It comes from cows, somewhere.

If you can't understand the logic that McDonalds serve lots of types of food and that some of them are more healthy and less healthy compared to each other then I'm not sure how to explain it better.

Sorry to disturb those dreams about fresh cut apple slices. They are not freshly cut, they are cutted and treated with chemicals in a factory, packed into plastic and might be lying around for up to two weeks before some parents give them their kids to alleviate their guilty conscience for taking their kids to a drug food shop.

Same for the chocolate milk. But I leave it up to you to find out what great inventions of the chemical industry enable this always same creamy taste without clumped together cacao.

And the argument about bigger portions has something to do with eating habits, but not with healthy food.

I feel like you're playing to the knee-jerk reaction crowd that will decide you've won the argument through buzzword bingo, the buzzword in this case being "chemicals".

Saying a foodstuff has come into contact with a chemical somewhere in the process means nothing without more information, yet you expect it to be taken as an automatic negative.

There isn't a big conspiracy at McDonalds, the sliced apples are real food:


> Ingredients: Apples, Calcium Ascorbate (a blend of Calcium and Vitamin C to maintain freshness and color).

Scary stuff! I guess the wax that is on apples at the grocery store is missing, but hey it still seems like real food to me.

I never said the apple slices were fresh. Of course they're not, they come pre-packaged, who would think they were fresh? That doesn't change the fact that they are slices of apple, and that they're not fried or baked. I'm replying to your delusion that you can't get worse than that meal, I'm not claiming it's the best or most nutritional meal in the world.

> I'm replying to your delusion that you can't get worse than that meal,

And that is wrong, it doesn't matter what you eat at MacDonalds. You can swap the coke against "chocolate milk" to reduce sugar, therefore you get more emulsifier and more preservative. You can swap french fries for apple slices to get less fat, but therefore you get another mix of chemicals without any vitamins left. And all this discussion when the Deli around the corner sells fresh apples ...

> You can swap french fries for apple slices to get less fat, but therefore you get another mix of chemicals without any vitamins left.

That's quite an amusing statement, given that the "mix of chemicals" you're criticising is Vitamin C and Calcium.

I don't like McDonald's either, but they're not the personified evil you insinuate them to be.

The apple slices are literally raw, unsweetened, sliced apples. Not a baked item.

Certainly you could do worse. But you could also do better. Teaching young kids to avoid the high-sugar, high-salt, brightly-colored food trap is hard, but I have seen first-hand families that have done it.

The thing is, if they were taking their kids to the local diner, the food would be just as unhealthy but no one would comment.

That's how you know the McDonalds hate is really about judging and not about health.

It's like people who only care about rape when there's a Muslim suspect. If they really cared about it, they would talk about it outside of the context of religion.

an argument that assumes parenting is about always making the wisest decision is an argument that misunderstands the reality of parenthood

Bizarre how the article seems to present this as a hopeful and positive thing about McDonalds.

To me it is just another indicator of how broken American society is. A fast food place serving terrible and unhealthy food is becoming a gathering place for poor people who are probably the ones most in need of a healthier and better lifestyle.

It is also a sad reminder of how society has gone so utterly wrong when the cheapest food is the absolutely worst food.

This is of course not McDonalds fault, but society has allowed huge chains pushing cheap unhealthy food to the masses flourish. It isn't just about the food, but the sort of cultural wasteland a place like McDonalds is. Everything mass produced and equal everywhere. A country priding itself in diversity is drowning in homogeneity.

>unhealthy food

and food at other restaurants are magically healthy? Come on.

I lived in a poor neighborhood, heck I grew up in one. Our McDonalds was mostly a place to get breakfast and coffee and such and a lot of seniors spent all day or at least the morning in there reading, socializing, etc.

Meanwhile across the street you can get all a 3,000 calorie fettucine alfredo at the italian place. Or go to starbucks and get a 550 calorie frappucciono. The idea that only fast food is unhealthy is a bit much.

>but society has allowed huge chains pushing cheap unhealthy food to the masses flourish.

People will go where they want. Choice matters, you don't have to go to the mcdonalds, but it has cheap coffee and cheap breakfast. 300 calories for a McMuffin isn't the society destroying thing you seem to think. In fact, these people hang out at McDonalds because its usually the only place that won't chase them out after x amount of time after buying something. In poor neighborhoods there aren't a lot of boutique coffee shops with wifi or Paneras where hanging out is the norm. McDonalds as a hangout predates those by decades. If anything McDonalds is unusually progressive in this way. I know its un-cool to praise McDonalds, but I think Ray Kroc had his heart in the right place and sincerely cared about customer service and the experience of his customers.

I wish I could upvote this more. I also dont blame McDonalds as a company. Like any other restaurant they're forced to strike their own line between quality of ingredients vs price. Like any other restaurant they must pander to what their customer base wants. Their success is a reflection of what we have become as a society, gladly choosing such a faceless generic landmark as the focal point of our community. There is just something about it that feels soulless and submissive to me.

So where should the focal point of your community be? What super-sophisticated place do you socialize at? A bar? Starbucks? The mall? At home in front of the computer?

It's really not hard to find a communal gathering spot a little more high-brow than McDonald's

For example, I live in the suburbs of San Francisco. Not far from me there is a delightful and quaint organic bakery, and across from that is a gorgeous park. On weekends after my kids finish lacrosse practice, my wife and I take them there and enjoy some cheap ($9 each) chocolate croissants while they play on their tablets in the park.

People choosing to congregate in a McDonald's is as inconceivable as choosing to meet up in an outhouse or an abbatoir to me.

I can't tell if this comment is sarcastic or not. $9 croissants? I never thought I would defend McDonald's - comparing that place to an outhouse along with your croissant comment just comes across as being incredibly privileged, and not in a very nice way.

But you live in a San Francisco suburb. Try a small town in West Virginia or Alabama. It's very different.

Then the people that live there should make an effort to move out west. Again, not hard -- take some CodeAcademy classes.

I assume you're being a troll. Because the alternatives I can think of are a lot worse.

That's pretty silly. You both imply we can all fit in the bay area, and that poverty is a trivially solved problem. Both are definitely not true.

Well your comment suggests I'm a privileged and snobby type person, maybe youre right about the privileged part. I live in Maine and I wouldn't say in this town there's one focal point. Different types of folks can be found frequenting different places such as the town rec center and the locally owned coffee shop and yes there's two bars people commiserate at after work. For the most part this community still integrates the wealthier living with the poorer in the same neighborhoods and generally speaking everyone privileged and lesser fortunate take pride in the local economy and integrate well. Now maybe I am being snobby but I do hope everyone in a community has a unique place that defines their community to call their own. I realize that isn't always possible for everyone to put together

What makes it a cultural wasteland, exactly? Where are people supposed to be socializing, if not the place they like to eat? Mass production is what enables McDonald's to provide good food at super cheap prices. Probably the best food value for your money in the entire USA.

McDonald's food isn't unhealthy as part of a balanced diet. It's no less healthy than chipotle if you're getting a soda. I don't eat there but McDonald's is simply amazing for providing so much great food at rock-bottom prices.

Some of the elitism on this thread is absolutely astounding. And I say this as someone who is elitist to at least some degree but I would never think of making some of the comments I read here--and certainly not in public.

Yeah it's really something to see. I especially love the guy wondering why all the lower cast people can't just join him at his nice restaurant in downtown Toronto rather and just spend a few more dollors for his obviously superior food.

This is where I'm currently sitting:


It's a small restaurant that sells food for a dollar or two more than McDonalds. It's a 10 minute ferry ride from downtown Toronto, and after the work day ends (very soon) it will be full of people talking and laughing.

I'm not going to judge somebody that loves McDonalds going there, but I am going to long for a society where we have less mass produced, race to the bottom, crap. I want artists and greenery and real forks and cups. I don't want to be around a bunch of unheathy food wrapped in wax paper. I don't want to be around shitty "John is gay" graffiti on poorly lit washrooms.

How is there even a discussion here? Can't we hang out in parks and eat veggie loaded wraps? Can't we get people off of transfats and sugar?

>Where are people supposed to be socializing, if not the place they like to eat?

In a lot of places, there are publicly-supported community centers equipped with kitchenettes. Even in America, there are often churches, school buildings, or (dare I say it) community centers equipped to function as community centers.

The fact that Americans think "no public place for general socialization" is the default is part of what makes Americans (and the Anglo world in-general) a little weird.

Sorry, I've never seen a "community center" and have no idea what they are. How do they even work? You just walk in and there are tables there and you sit down and play a board game or something? Do they charge admission? Do they have operating hours? Places to get/eat food?


The answer to most of your questions is, on average, yes.

>terrible and unhealthy food

It is neither terrible nor unhealthy.

>the cheapest food is the absolutely worst food.

First, that would totally make sense. Second, it is not the case. Most McDonald foods are better than gluten-free ass-shit, both in taste and health.

>A country priding itself in diversity is drowning in homogeneity.

Breathing oxygen is homogenous. Let's create something else to breathe.

Fucking brainless idiots going after thoughtless tropes made up by malnourished hippies and poorly fed morons!

Your style of writing doesn't warrant a reply, but anyway:

Your "argument" seems to be: Who calls McD unhealthy or bland must be "fucking brainless", also if McD food were as cheap as it is, because it's of the worst quality, that would totally make sense. But for some reason this isn't the case. Indeed, it is "better than shit."

If you enjoy tasty food, by all means, eat it. But if you think deep-frying or pickling is the best way to serve vegetables, grilling meat puree to death the appropriate way to prepare BBQ and the main ingredient in good ice-cream can be corn-sirup, then you have a lot to discover in the world of tastes.

Go out of your comfort zone and try something new!

>Your style of writing doesn't warrant a reply,

Then fuck off! I am not asking for one.

>Who calls McD unhealthy or bland must be "fucking brainless"

Yes because it is healthier than most other "foods" that are available and tastier than most other foods in the world. The existence of healthier or tastier food proves nothing. Is spending the time and money to eat those food instead worth it? NOPE! You know how I know? Because if there was, McDonalds would make it and sell it... or their competitors would and McDonalds would go out of business.

>McD food were as cheap as it is, because it's of the worst quality, that would totally make sense

Yep, if there was excess of it and nobody wanted it, it would be cheap... which is not the case. It's cheap because they have optimized the processes in several ways and sell enough to justify doing it at scale.

McDonalds really isn't that bad. Looking at the nutritional info, 540 calories for a big mac, 230 for fries (770 calories), which is easy to fit into a 2000 calorie/day meal plan. Of course you are shot if you start ordering sodas and icecream, but at the very least this is a comparable meal to what you might normally eat. Sodium is the only major concern, I think.

Now if they'd only make kid's meals smaller versions of their regular meals, instead of being blander, more tasteless versions.

>Most McDonald foods are better than gluten-free ass-shit, both in taste and health

Alright, at least in terms of calories, many things are leaner than the typical McDonald's meal. Merely contradicting is not a convincing argument.

You want leaner meals? Have you tried eating less of it?

It's not bizarre, this is a PR piece. It's a paid advertisement meant to evoke positive feelings.

I wonder if there's an international problem with this story.

McDonalds in the UK isn't particularly cheap, you can feed a family on the price of a BigMac meal (burger, fries, drink). BigMacs here are quite a sweet food, sugary bun with sweetened relish; and certainly fatty though the patties tend to be pretty dry. The fries at McDo are saltier tasting than any other food I eat except "salt chicken" [at the chinese buffet] - pretty sure they put more salt on than the nutritional info suggests. You can get a [sweet, concentrated] OJ instead of carbonated "fountain" drinks though.

It's not cheap [to me] and I've never seen anyone except teenagers hanging out in any in the UK. The seating is firmly padded benches with upright backs or uncushioned chairs. Tables are usually fixed to the floor.

Additionally McDo here tend to be in town centres or adjacent to supermarkets, not really in areas where poor people - other than youths - are hanging around.

There is a big difference between McDonalds in the US and abroad. I know them from Brazil, and there it is a relatively upscale fast food chain. In the US, they serve very low quality food and most locations are also borderline usable (only clean enough to pass inspections).

<poor people who are probably the ones most in need of a healthier and better lifestyle.>

Have you never observed in a grocery store what people buy with public aid redemptions ("food stamps", WIC, CalFresh, etc.)

The Burger King closest to me actually has a huge rooftop banner advertising that they accept/redeem CalFresh/WIC.

There are healthy choices at McD, but why do so many give sit down restaurants a pass? Some of the big name ones will load you down in calories, fat, and salt, and just hide it behind foodie names and portions.

Yeah McD ain't the bastion of good health but not many places are except maybe a boutique spot

A little perspective: cheap, unhealthy fast food is not ideal, but it's much better than the previous state of society -- for all of human history until approximately 50 years ago, and still the case in most of the world -- where poor people just went hungry.

In the article it seems like most people go for the coffee. Is their coffee as bad as their food, healthwise?

In many communities in the UK, it's the pub.

On the positive side, it brings a genuine sense of community where you hang out alone, forge new bonds or maintain old ones. People come and go asking if so-and-so has been in today. Before mobiles, families would call the pub and leave messages for each other. Class lines were much less defined. You leave things behind the bar for other people to pick up later.

On the negative side, well, alcohol, and all the issues that brings.

Most of the pubs near me are restaurants first, pubs second.

I recently went to a McDonald's in Austria. I was blown away by how they were going exactly for the community center vibe.

There was a bar with four or five internet connected tablets a half-basketball court next to the jungle gym and patio seating like you'd find at an upscale resteraunt. It also had a dedicated coffee and desert bar. Also, the cash registers were gone and in their place were four huge touchscreens for ordering. The place was like a restaurant from 50 years in the future.

I was shocked at how nice it was and that we don't have any in the US.

There are "specialty" McD's in the US, they are just rare. This one springs to mind:


There are a few in the US. They are just in select locations. I wrote software for McDs a while back and they were always coming up with high-tech initiatives. Too bad the environment was cut throat or I would have enjoyed working there.

What was the cause of the cut-throatness if I may presume to ask such a thing? Some form of performance related pay or just heavy headquarters politics?

(in UK McDonalds is a franchise operation I think, not too sure, so each restaurant is its own little enterprise with standardised training &c)

There are lots of the touch screens in Ontario, Canada, in and around Toronto. Really neat.

There appears to be no similarity better domestic and foreign McDonalds. Foreign McDonalds have much fresher better tasting food. They can't cut corners like they do in the US.

I remember driving through a Native American reservation in the Southwest and stopping at a McDonald's after seeing not much of anything for miles and miles. I walked in and it was like everyone in the reservation was there hanging out it was so alive with conversation and activity. I'm not a McDonald's fan, but I'm glad they exist to serve purposes like that, because I'm not sure where else the people in that one would've gathered.

The interesting question is, if this is a sign for an achievement of McDonalds or a failure of the society?

I'm not sure it's either one.

I doubt that McDonald's has put much if any particular effort toward building their restaurants into community centers. Without that, I'm not I'm comfortable calling it an achievement on their part. They just sort of fell into the role, and don't seem to have done much to expand it.

As for it being a failure of the society, I'd be tempted to argue the opposite. Lacking a suitable community center (for values of "suitable" that vary from community to community, and which I do not presume to dictate or even know), the community improvised one of its own from what was at hand. We can say that the aesthetics of the implementation are kind of bleak, but to have done it at all is a major success.

I wish the article had expanded on the unsuitability of community centers due to their bureaucracy. It just mentions it in a couple of words and never elaborates. It seems like it should be easy to provide just a simple public space with basic amenities, without even any activities (which is the low bar set by McDonald's). The big exception of course being that food isn't served, but running a little competent sandwich shop or something is far from impossible (every bus and train station I've been too manages that).

It is the bureaucracy that amazed me about the Sikh community - or should I say lack of it. As long as you obey a few simple rules (essentially just no alcohol, tobacco, or being under the influence, cover hair, no shoes) you pretty much what you will.

Notably with the Sikh's the langar hall (where langar, a free meal, is always served) is the hub of a Gurdwara - seemingly food is the great social leveller!

Yeah that is my issue with the whole thing. I don't blame McDonalds. I blame the rest of society for being such a big failure that a multinational junk food maker becomes the community center for poor people.

It doesn't feel like an effective use of space; what is it about McDonald's that makes it a better focal point than a community center or a space built specifically as a gathering point for the community?

The article details exactly what it is that makes McDonalds better:

1. It's clean.

2. It's local.

3. It is welcoming.

4. There is no beauracracy.

Sorry, I meant to imply the larger question, "Why aren't community centers offering this?"

Because it costs money, and people don't typically pay their community centers every time they visit.

What costs money, a community center?

Well yes, community centers are literally buildings, and as such, have expenses. Most US communities still have them, however, so it's probably not the money that's preventing them from existing.

McDonalds has an economic incentive for having all those qualities. Employees get fired for not cleaning the floor. A store goes out of business if people don't feel welcome there. A business wants as little in the way of customers as possible so the bureaucracy is kept to the minimum

A community center however is usually run by volunteers and is funded often as not by government money. The money comes with bureaucracy and there usually aren't enough volunteers to go around.

There are exception to both of the above of course. Some Mcdonald's are dirty and unwelcoming and some Community Centers are clean and simple.

But in the general case the above often holds true.

I don't know if this would be some kind of libertarian wet dream, but I wonder if there's value in taking some of the underlying reasons McDonald's is working for this purpose, and trying to emulate them in existing infrastructure.


These need to be mandatory installations in all communities. Non-commercial, accessible spaces for people to congregate. It's a human-requirement.

A few years ago my wife and I were coming back from a road trip to visit some friends and family in Canada, and we crossed back into the US at the Detroit/Windsor crossing. We were basically running on fumes by the time we got through the border, so drove around the Detroit side a bit in search of a gas station (it took a while to find one that wasn't clearly abandoned or in complete shambles).

One thing I noticed is that among all of the boarded-up, graffiti-strewn buildings, homeless people sleeping in the gutters, abandoned houses and cars, the one shining beacon of normalcy was the McDonalds. The building was in perfect condition, the lot was clean, lights were on--it was very striking in contrast to the almost post-apocalyptic looking area of the city that surrounded it.

I can totally understand why such a place would naturally attract people as a place to congregate in a neighborhood as poor as that one. Inexpensive food plus a building that not only still functions as shelter, but has electricity, bathrooms, heat/air conditioning--all things that you may very well not have at home (assuming you even have a home).

For what it's worth, that's just one example of a McDonalds.

There was one location nearby where I went to college and its lot was frequently used by drug dealers and all kinds of shady types.

In Brazil we have a similar effect with shopping centers/malls, that tend to be pretty, clean and safe, not just a bunch of stores (the store rent inside the mall is higher than a street store). Shopping center becomes the default place to go since there is food there, it is open on Sundays. One downside is that stores are mostly empty, which negates a bit the original idea (--> shopping <-- center, not meeting center). The only crowded place is where the food is, and the only really long line is the McDonalds ice cream.

Then some people began to complain that there were too many "ugly people" (mostly poor and young teens that went there for the very same reasons as anyone else). There were some episodes of security barring the entrance of unaccompanied teens that looked "poor". Of course it didn't last long, cooler heads prevailed and I guess that McFlurries were not selling well :)

This thread seems like its become a de-facto community center for high horses.

when I lived out of my car in SoCal, I wasn't familiar with starbucks yet and so I basically used McDonalds as my table/office/wi-fi/hangout spot for the first month.

I have a soft spot for McDonalds despite what its critics may say. It's an inclusive place which accepts everyone: homeless, indigent, wealthy, kids, adults. It is cheap, unpretentious, and welcoming.

That said, this was a special McDonalds in Pasadena that was clean, had numerous power outlets, and was exceptionally well-run. The McDonalds in the rest of LA were disgusting in comparison and refused to provide outlets, presumably to keep out homeless.

I eventually switched to Starbucks because starbucks always has outlets, the coffee was slightly better (and had more options) and the wifi was significantly faster

I often work out of my neighborhood McDonald's when working from home. It's about the only non-faith based multi-generational space in town. The mix of kids, a few other freelancers, and retired folks is unique.

Coffee shops fill this role for my area. There is a Starbucks near my apartment that is a thriving multi-nationality community hub. This surprised me, since prior to experiencing this, most of the coffee shops I've been to have had a more... niche... clientele.

What astonishes me, is how often poor people go eating in a restaurant (e.g. breakfast in the first paragraph) when making breakfast at home (or lunch) is so much cheaper (as a fun exercise we often calculate the prices of our home lunch).

Although I have a nice income, 80% of the time I bring my own food to work because restaurants are too expensive in my opinion to regularly use them.

As a side note: I have the suspicion I'm addicted to fast food (McDonalds/Burger King). When I don't go there for some weeks, I have no urge and I'm fine. But as soon as I eat there, I have the urge for days to go back and have another burger.

Cooking for yourself is only cheaper if you've already spent the money to outfit your kitchen. There's a big up front investment in terms of ingredients and tools.

You can spend $50 up front, and then eat for $3/meal by cooking for yourself...

Or you can just spend $6/meal at McDonalds.

If you only have $10 in your pocket you really don't have much of a choice.

This is, I think, the most important thing to understand about poverty in a capitalist system. It is much more difficult to make good investments when you have very little liquidity.

S/He also ignores the time invested in cooking. What must your hourly wage be, for the $3 saved by cooking to be worthwhile?

Also, cooking for only one person seems to me to be more expensive, because the ingredients don't really come in the size for only one person.

Even with 2 people - most ingredients I purchase are assuming 3-4 eaters the "large sizes" assume 6-8. If you don't eat leftovers it can get pricey or you end up eating more than you probably should...

The other issue I run into is that most of my food goes bad before I even finish it coupled with the fact I refuse to even have "leftovers". I either buy too little of what I need (smaller amounts/sizes) and end up spending more money for not purchasing bulk, or I waste money by throwing away surplus after it has expired. It's a fine balance to try and get "just the right amount". I often find myself throwing away 1/2 a loaf of bread, several meals worth of lunch meats, rotten fruits/vegetables, etc. And that's keeping some items a while after the "use by:" date...

An example of my problem:

1 gallon of milk is often too much. ½ a gallon of milk is often too little. It is cheaper (both economically and time spent going to the store) to buy 1 gallon of milk and dump it when it goes bad than to buy ½ a gallon as I need it.

I have no problem for cooking for two people. But perhaps this is specific to Germany.

"throwing away 1/2 a loaf of bread"

I buy 1/2 not a whole bread then.

About the milk: Not sure if you buy fresh milk from the farm, otherwise milk in the fridge does not go bad for days.

Today we had a delicious lentil salad with feta and rucola and a vinaigrette of lemon and tomatoes. The base salad can easily be used 2 days in a row with different toppings with capers and olives and a different dressing. Should be around $3 per meal, whereas McDonalds is >$6 in Germany (the only way to eat cheap at McDonalds is having 3 hamburgers for $1 each).

In the US bread comes pre-sliced in a plastic bag. You can pick up this kind of bread nearly anywhere, from a convenience store to a fill-up station or a pharmacy. Bakeries which put out product that Europeans would consider bread are almost exclusively found inside grocery stores. This bread is slightly more expensive per weight. Grocery stores, like most commercial establishments in the US, can be hard to get to without a car, and public transport, if exists outside the few major cities, typically has low frequency and poor coverage of residential areas.

UHT milk does exist, but most people don't know about it, and it's expensive. Most milk sold isn't shelf-stable and needs to be refrigerated the entire time.

You make a good case with the salad, though.

I don't think the OP was referring to UHT, but rather ESL milk (also known as HTST). Most milk sold in Germany is now ESL, and you can keep it in the fridge for 2-3 weeks. It's also sold in units of 1 litre (a little over a quart) and if you want more, you just buy more than one.

The 1/2 loaf probably costs 3/4 of what a full loaf does. That addition 25% is pure margin for the retailer - they thank you for your willingness to pay more for the same product.

>The 1/2 loaf probably costs 3/4 of what a full loaf does.

Correct. I'm not going to pay more for less which is why I end up throwing away surplus. I hate being wasteful of food - but I hate being wasteful of my money (and my time) even more.

In addition to that, in the U.S your size options are "buy a whole loaf" or "buy a different brand of whole loaf". Bread comes pre-packaged in a twist-tied (or clip-on) bag as a whole loaf. Unless you visit a bakery or the grocery store you visit has a bakery section.

This assumes you can work 24h a day. It could be extended to every free hour: What must your your hourly wage be, that it's worth watching TV.

Also if you are poor and have no money, and no opportunity to earn more, and perhaps already have a second job, then $3 saved a day makes a huge difference. Though I'd say savings for 3 meals (lunch and breakfast and dinner) should be around $10 not $3 (at least from my experience comparing prices for cooking and going to McDonalds)

I'd argue the up front cost is much less than $50. However, using the numbers as provided, the break-even is still less than a single week.

In the breakfast example, you can buy a single McD meal or buy a dozen eggs with a container of quick oats - both are ~$6. The latter is much better for liquidity.

Not to mention, the eggs and oats is easy to cook, requires little 'ingredients and tools', is healthier, and will last multiple days (helping w/ liquidity).

Go ahead and try to plan out a week's worth of meals while building up the list of staples and cookware that you would need to support it.

I've done it. I think $50 is pretty conservative actually. It would be easy just to spend $50 on some fats and spices.

If you are talking about avoiding McDonald's to save money, it starts to get easier.

Plain pasta. Plain potatoes. Rice-A-Roni. Hamburger Helper.

Now, should someone stick to that diet for years? No. Will the savings compound at a fantastic rate using that diet? Yeah.

If it is sufficiently horrifying, a person could even limit themselves to the above for ~1/2 of meals.

What equipment are you thinking of? Don't most homes have stoves? A pan or pot is maybe a couple dollars from a garage sale.

You won't get very far with one pot or pan. I live alone and cook for myself, and my kitchen probably has a dozen. For anything beyond the very basics you'll need a variety of mixing bowls, mixing spoons, measuring cups/spoons, spatulas, etc. Knives and cutting board to chop ingredients. Not to mention the need for a basic assortment of spices, butter, oil appropriate for cooking, etc.

Sure, you don't need all of that to get started cooking, but making do with a minimal kitchen is going to make cooking more difficult and is likely to also affect the quality of your food.

I guess it depends on your standards. Back in college I cooked a ton of meals in just one pot. Cook some ground pork, drain, cook rice, add pork and frozen veggies. Probably costs $10 to make 5 or 6 meals.

You're correct. It's sad there are people voting you down with no explanation. I cook every meal I eat (4 a day) in a single frying pan, a single cooking sheet, microwave, and a rice cooker. For seasoning, I have salt, pepper, and some Ms Dash. I don't know much that I can't cook with those items alone.

I think those of us with fancy kitchens don't really consider how much of that is just convenience (and which percentage of the equipment just sits there, unused, 99% of the time), and how much you can achieve with very simple tools.

Good point.

To make food at home, you either need fresh, perishable ingredients and/or time to prep and cook. Even accessing fresh ingredients may be a hassle (see: food deserts), so eating off the dollar menu often feels like a better use of your money than making the trek to the grocery store to buy some perishables that you then have to cook before they go bad.

It's similar to why poor people buy poor-quality shoes more often, as opposed to one high-quality pair once a year.

EDIT: or cars. Poor people buy cars that are in poor condition because that's all they can afford, and they spend more money on it overall than if they could've gotten a better-quality car instead. It's expensive to be poor.

"The reason that the rich were so rich, Vimes reasoned, was because they managed to spend less money.

Take boots, for example. He earned thirty-eight dollars a month plus allowances. A really good pair of leather boots cost fifty dollars. But an affordable pair of boots, which were sort of OK for a season or two and then leaked like hell when the cardboard gave out, cost about ten dollars. Those were the kind of boots Vimes always bought, and wore until the soles were so thin that he could tell where he was in Ankh-Morpork on a foggy night by the feel of the cobbles.

But the thing was that good boots lasted for years and years. A man who could afford fifty dollars had a pair of boots that'd still be keeping his feet dry in ten years' time, while the poor man who could only afford cheap boots would have spent a hundred dollars on boots in the same time and would still have wet feet.

This was the Captain Samuel Vimes 'Boots' theory of socioeconomic unfairness."

- Terry Pratchett, Men at Arms: The Play

I immediately thought of Sam Vimes too. Well done!

And just to add on to this, it's worse when you're cooking for one, it's far too easy to let ingredients go to waste.

People never think about anything but the cash register price when making this comparison for some reason...

I agree cooking for one is not supported by - at least here in Germany - most super markets. Packaging is too big. The trick when I was cooking for myself is cook larger portions and put these into the fridge. Vary them when eating and don't try to keep raw ingredients instead of cooked food.

Cooking for two is no problem though, especially if you cook the right things. Cooking for more then 2 and you really have no problems with ingredients going to waste.

And you can buy some ingredients for cheap that last, e.g. I buy Japanese rice in 5kg or 10kg sizes, easy to keep in good condition for a long time and much cheaper than 500g from the super market.

> It's similar to why poor people buy poor-quality shoes more often, as opposed to one high-quality pair once a year.

Haha man I can hardly count the number of $15 pairs of sneakers I bought at the market as a kid, with the glue visible on the sides. Eventually the soles would inevitably come off, partially cause of the crappy shoe and partially because I was always playing football (soccer) with them.

The notion of buying a decent pair of shoes and another specialised sport-shoe just never even came up as an option in my mind, to drop $250 total on two pairs of shoes.

I genuinely don't know what point you are trying to make here.

He's agreeing with the person he's responding to and noting how the point that person made resonates with his own experience, whilst adding a little background color.

I agree if people have no time. I don't watch any TV, but many people do watch a lot of TV so the "no time" is more a prioritization issue for many, watch TV or prepare food.

"It's similar to why poor people buy poor-quality shoes more often, as opposed to one high-quality pair once a year."

On the contrary, poor people buy poor shoes because they are cheaper and they don't have enough disposable income to afford good quality shoes.

* more often

Add poor money-management habits on top of that (which eg going out for breakfast exacerbates), and it's a recipe to further entrench you in a poor lifestyle, unfortunately.

Adding to this; there is also economy of scale.

Restaurants can buy in much larger quantity and receive a discount for doing so. It is more /resource/ efficient for restaurants to make meals as they disburse labor and ingredients over many households in one day, instead of a single household's resources and labor trying to use perishable items before they expire.

The main issue that comes to my mind is of the more perishable items: greens, vegetables, fruits, and baked goods.

I can, if I like, make my own rice at home, and bring in some fish to make sushi with. By the time I factor in labor and other costs I'm not actually sure that I've come out ahead of just going somewhere. For more complex dishes I don't think I do come out ahead.

The simple dishes, like a sandwich, I would honestly like to be able to make my self, but that doesn't scale down well. A family, sharing the bread, meat, and greens, is really required to make that more economic.

It would be so much easier if there were not-for-profit (or for very limited profit) places to buy freshly made things from.

What kind of cost-effective not-for-profit "freshly made things" store do you imagine?

Bear in mind that most restaurants and similar food-production outlets are practically not-for-profits or "for very limited profits". As are most grocery stores.

>The simple dishes, like a sandwich, I would honestly like to be able to make my self, but that doesn't scale down well. A family, sharing the bread, meat, and greens, is really required to make that more economic.

Seriously? You buy a loaf of bread and some cold cuts (or rotisserie chicken or whatever), mustard, mayo. Absolutely no trouble getting a week's worth of food for one person.

Yes, you can absolutely cook at home. I admit that I don't have access to good ethnic takeout or restaurants, so I'm inclined to cook, but I'm pretty sure that I save money as well.

Dunno what sandwich shop you are going to that doesn't have any sandwich fixins or cheese. I only eat sandwiches that are full of veggies. The sandwich shop I go to bakes their bread daily. To recreate that at home I'd have to get around 10 components and chop them all. On top of that I'd have to stop by the bakery every day I wanted a sandwich.

Yes, you can cook at home, doesn't mean that by definition it is cheaper. Depends on what you eat and often how often you eat, if you have family, or if you prefer variety or stick with the same few meals.

Having been poor, its very cheap per hour as a luxury, something you saved up for. Compared to going to a movie, or a bar, its very cheap both in an absolute sense or per hour. I'm not sure where one can go out for an hour while having dinner that's cheaper.

One issue is due to income inequality most of the population is poor. Perhaps 19 in 20 of their meals are eaten at home, but that 1 in 20, multiplied by most of the population, equals very full McDonalds. Middle and upper class people have this weird idea that most poor people meals are eaten at McDonalds but some simple math about restaurant seats per sq mile just doesn't work. Even poor people like the occasional luxury, its just theirs is a hamburger as opposed to a cashmere sweater or a new car.

A second issue is the usual middle/upper class disconnect from poor people combined with a lack of prediction or creativity. Why if poor people can't afford to cook at home and thus "have to" eat at restaurants all the time because thats so much cheaper, then the restaurant business in Somalia or Haiti must really be booming. What did people eat before fast food in the 70s?

The urge that you report is sugar related. Everything is drowned in carbs, mostly HFCS. Buns today taste sweeter than Hawaiian sweet rolls did when I was a kid. I suspect Hawaii rolls are no longer sold because its impossible to add more sugar to sugar saturated regular 2016 dough. I eat pretty low carb normally, and I feel the same way about cookies or anything else sugary, suddenly three days later I gotta have another chocolate chip cookie. Sugar is addictive.

Finally its a HN trope that home cooking is too expensive and impossible and no one on the planet does it. I donno its like automobile analogies on slashdot or something. Its just a belief, and you show allegiance to the site and its mores by social signalling your agreement with it. Yes yes we all know the numbers don't add up, but like I wrote, its a belief, and nobody ever reasoned themselves either into or out of a belief.

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