February 14, 2016
“By three methods we may learn wisdom: first, by reflection, which is noblest; second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third, by experience, which is bitterest.”Confucius
There’s a word that describes a certain kind of man. A man that strides from the charred remains of a former life and begins anew, never glancing back. His destination might be a mystery, even to him, but his hunger and drive impel him.
It is the word for an unbranded steer on an open range. It’s also the name of the Yelp badge I earned for checking into McDonalds on America’s birthday where I could buy a Big Mac, and then eat that sandwich at Aub Zam Zam.
There is some irony in how this non-standard beast of a burger has become so ubiquitous. The humble invention of a Pennsylvania franchisee, the Big Mac was anointed flagship burger of an empire in less than a year. There is no better emblem of American consumerism and triumph than this 540-calorie mouthful. The Economist uses it to measure purchasing power across the world. Is it a coincidence that the Big Mac character in McDonald-land is a police officer? This sandwich is a Goddamn metaphor.
For those less metonymically inclined, the Big Mac is beef, “special sauce,” lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions, and a tripartite bun topped with sesame seeds. The Big Mac is unique in the fast food world for its club-sandwich-like middle bun. It’s there to stabilize the toppings, but because this sandwich is always Hastily Prepared, this purpose is never attained.
Like America, the truth of this burger doesn’t necessarily resemble its glossy portrait. And like an American Life, the burger is typically consumed in yawning desperate bites with an aura of malaise. I washed mine down with a PBR in a dark dive bar for the visually minded. Marvin Gaye serenaded me from the jukebox, for those aurally so.
You will eat better sandwiches, but none will advance your age ever-so-slightly after you pop the last morsel in your mouth, whipping you at light speed across the universe. Other sandwiches will nourish you, but only the Big Mac conveys the true tang of Experience; the kindling of the endless American wildfire.