27 June 2008

the mc-what?

I use web-based email. I know: pleb. Anyway, it’s free, I've had it forever and I find the celebrity gossip - that I must dedicate half an eyeball to as I log in - mildly amusing.

This afternoon though, I almost inhaled my chai when I saw an ad for McAfrica. That’s right, McAfrica!

As in, the continent with more starving people than anywhere else on Earth! Brought to you by the corporation almost singularly responsible for promulgating a 'food culture' (much licence taken) resulting in mass rates of obesity in the west.

But why McAfrica? Are they using zebra patties? Is this a cunning new alliance with World Vision to get those of us with half an iota's flea of a social conscience through the automatic doors? Perhaps I’m clinging to stereotypes of place-based poverty. Anyway, I was compelled to investigate (note to relics: this is precisely why we’ve exceeded our download limit every month since my arrival).

Like any McInteraction, I felt instantly sick and regretful. (The site has apparently been revamped, and is all wobbly and intuitive.)

Anyway, there are no zebras in the patties (though I doubt there’s much real cow in them either, despite the listing of 100% beef in the ingredients list, which I’ve always thought to be a more innocuous way of saying ‘we use all the parts of the cow’). Apparently what makes this burger a McAfrica is that it’s “dressed with an exotic African sauce of mayonnaise and spices”.

Spices? What spices? Mayonnaise? Isn’t that a European condiment? Granted, the French influence in African cuisine is strong. But when were burgers ever part of a traditional African diet!? I’ve been to one African country and there were lots of pastries (hail the French), lots of tagines, not so many burgers. (Though I did pass one McFoodhall on my two-week Moroccan circuit.)

On closer inspection,
it appears the "African sauce" is actually “Harissa Mayonnaise”, though what makes it “Harissa Mayonnaise” is indecipherable from the ingredients list, which between all the numbers, refers to chilli puree and vague listing of “spices” and “herbs”. So by waving the "exotic" wand, they’ve absolved themselves from giving any particular reason why this maketh an African burger!

At 2000 kilojoules and over 40% fat, they should load up a few plane-fuls of McAfricas and set off for Zimbabwe, where inflation is running at 100,000 per cent (or was in April,
according to AFP) or to Sierra Leone where the cost of rice has risen 300 percent. Just aim the plane somewhere at the continent and you're bound to find a country that's been affected by food/fuel riots in recent months/years.

My investigation got stranger and stranger. The Olympic colours billowed across the website burger. Marketing spiel attests to this being a “Limited Edition Olympic Games Burger” (sic - and sick too).

Daft I may be, but the link to the Games is lost on me. If they had half a bland marketing brain at their global disposal, they might’ve dreamed up some sort of - just thinking wildly here - Chinese dish, perhaps served in a cute cardboard takeaway box. Which, benefit of the doubt etc, I’m sure they’re saving for the actual Games and working their way there with a continent a month or something midly strategic.

Anyway, sorry for ranting, I just had to share.


miaow said...

I would like to make a halfway insightful comment (especially as I've been blog-starved for a while) but really all I can say is - life is weird. That's twice today I've read the word Harissa, having never encountered it before. (The other mention was in 'delicious' magazine.)

the cook said...

Hmm, weird indeed. The universe calling you towards an encounter with a spicy condiment, perhaps?