It was love at first bite, and in a sea of hundreds of different cuisines and complex culinary flavours, the golden arches always served as a guiding light home to guaranteed palate satisfaction.
I stood firmly by them through the controversies as well, from (alleged) pink slime that constituted their nuggets, to the frozen/fresh beef debacle of their patties.
But today, the 7th of June, my devotion to Ronald’s cult has started to waver, and it is with great pain that I confess my much revered fast-food chain might no longer have my best interests at heart.
By now, you would’ve heard that the McGriddle is finally back on our shores after a two-year hiatus.
But before we get into how a single change in Singapore’s fast-food ecosystem can alter the national conversation, let’s start with an unbiased review of the sandwich in question.
For the uninitiated, the McGriddle is essentially a Sausage McMuffin whose buns have been infused with what passes off as maple syrup in McDonalds’ kitchens.
In other words, it goes maple bun, cheese, sausage patty, egg (optional), maple bun.
In theory, it sounds like a glorious amalgamation of all my favourite breakfast foods. But as any pragmatist will tell you, turning good ideas into a successful end product is a lot easier said than done.
The cheddar thrown into the mix didn’t help as well. I mean, come on. Cheese with a chemical-tasting maple syrup? Instead of a delicious breakfast, I was chewing on pure disappointment.
Now, before you look down on me with your olfactory privilege, let me just say that I greatly enjoy the regular Sausage McMuffin, and I swear by their hotcakes.
The McGriddle however, is their bastard lovechild and honestly, it’s disgusting.
On top of this, almost everyone here at Rice condemns it as breakfast disaster, except for my boss who’s a teeny bit strange and would marry the McGriddle if he could.
At the same time, what do our opinions matter?
The thing about our local food culture is that we love the hype that comes with new culinary inventions, and we buy into it with a passion.
A simple McGriddle spawned arguments on what we considered tasteful, with the conversation even descending into a greater debate on the merits of curry sauce, red rice porridge, and the godsend known as seaweed shaker fries.
Did we, for a moment, consider that the conversation around social inequality mattered as much as this latest culinary monstrosity?
No. And that’s the point.
It’s this cycle of novelty and consumption that Mcdonald’s has been able to capitalise on that reveals its true brilliance.
You see, McDonald’s understands that to be Singaporean is to be a “foodie” and anything less is considered high treason. We are not just the food we eat, but the opinions we have about said food. Because the fabric of our nation has been woven so tightly around food, Mcdonald’s has ingeniously managed to market their offerings as social events.
Whether or not we like the McGriddle or the Prosperity Burger or even KFC’s Chizza is beside the point. What matters is that we feel pressured to try it because everyone else is trying it, and that we either agree, disagree, or form some aggressive, convoluted opinion in response to someone else’s opinion of it.
The taste of our dear McGriddle, therefore, becomes secondary to the quest of being part of the discussion. Regardless of how it tastes, we will still buy one since we all want to fit in. We derive more pleasure from being part of something than we do from the actual patty.
This is precisely how the Nasi Lemak burger expertly rode the hype wave, selling out in less than two weeks largely due to word of mouth.
But would they ever dream of putting it on their permanent menu? I doubt it.
As good as it is, when something becomes a mainstay, we simply don’t care anymore.
This is not to say that the power of hype should be feared. Hype is great. Hype is fun. Hype is second only to hating on the government when it comes to uniting people.
But that does raise the question: are we really foodies or are we just imposters so desperate to fit in that we’ll try anything, even “maple syrup” with cheese?