Tuesday, October 27, 2009

McDonald's Freeze Out

As a kid, I recall the sense of triumph that accompanied McDonald's penetrations of the Iron Curtain. A Golden Arches rising in Moscow or Peking (as we spelled it in those days) was a clear signal that we were winning the Cold War, that the allure of western culture and capitalism were simply too powerful and would one day crush communism.

Twenty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, I see McDonald's unquenchable appetite for foreign conquest much differently. Instead of a forerunner of freedom, McDonald's has become a rapacious culinary imperialist, crushing native cuisine under a juggernaut of Big Macs and Happy Meals.

So it's with great shadenfreude that I read McDonald's is leaving Iceland. The franchisee said he had no choice because McDonald's required him to buy all his burgers, buns, cheese, etc. from Germany. The weakness of the Icelandic currency, battered by the nation's economic crisis, made it just too expensive.

Is Iceland going backwards or forwards? Sometimes you have to go backwards to go forwards, and this seems to me one of those cases.

The owner has said that he will reopen his three restaurants under a new name and using local ingredients. I wonder what he'll call it. Olaf's? Viking Food Quest? Blond Cuisine? I can't wait for the fillet-o-arctic chars and double lamb burgers.

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