I don’t really eat fast food, but a few weeks ago, I found myself having very little choice. I was in a hotel in Williamsburg, Virginia and since I was attending a conference by day and doing a lot of work and a lot of writing at night, I stayed close to the hotel and wound up eating a lovely combination of Wendy’s, Subway, and McDonald’s for dinner.
The McDonald’s was a really new-looking building, but I am 100% sure that it is the same McDonald’s my family at at 30 years ago when we took our first trip to Colonial Williamsburg and Busch Gardens. It was in a location that I remember clearly–way out on the highway near Busch Gardens, and one of the few places we could find where everyone was willing to eat something. It was also where I first encountered mustard on a hamburger.
I don’t know how many people reading this will believe me, but I grew up without mustard being put on a hamburger. Mustard, in my mind, was for hot dogs, and ketchup was for hamburgers. So whatever my parents would take us to McDonald’s or Burger King, I’d get a hamburger and it would just have ketchup on it. But whenever we went to a McDonald’s outside the tri-state area, there would be this weird yellow crap on the bun that made the burger taste weird and I hated it–so much that I am usre my sister and I didn’t want to eat the burgers, and then we discovered that we could mask the taste of mustard by putting a metric ton of extra ketchup on top of the mustard.
This would be the case of years afterward, and my wife found it incredibly odd that we would do this. Looking back, it seems that when it comes to fast food, you actually have variation among condiments int he various regions of the country and even between different restaurants (I believe that some places put mayonnaise on their burgers), which is odd because I would think that the purpose of a fast food place would be to give you the same cheap culinary experience no matter where you go.
My relationship with fast food would wax and wane over the years–I sore off of it in 2002 or so after reading Fast Food Nation. In the 15 years since, I’ve gone to McDonald’s literally three times, on occasions where I really have few to no other option. It just honestly doesn’t seem worth it since I have gotten much better at cooking and have found better sources for quickly made food.
I still don’t put mustard on my hamburgers, though.