Ruling the Roast

David A. Bell

  • Beef and Liberty: Roast Beef, John Bull and the English Nation by Ben Rogers
    Chatto, 207 pp, £17.99, April 2003, ISBN 0 7011 6980 X

At moments of stress, depression or grief, my thoughts turn irresistibly towards the golden arches of McDonald’s. Usually, I find the food repellent, but there are times when nothing can soothe my wounded American spirit like the famous ‘two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles and onions on a sesame-seed bun’. Yes, the burgers are assembled from the meat of dozens of separate animals, then flash frozen in a distant factory. Yes, the animals themselves are raised and slaughtered in abhorrent conditions, and stuffed with antibiotics. Yes, the literally tasteless finished product needs to be ‘reflavoured’ with chemicals concocted in a factory overlooking the New Jersey Turnpike. It’s no madeleine, but the Big Mac is nonetheless the comforting taste of my childhood. McDonald’s understands this, which is why it has long employed teams of psychologists to help market its products to children as young as two. Give it a child at an impressionable age, and it will have a customer for life.

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[*] Routledge, 282 pp., £55 and £16.99, October 2002, 0 415 15895 8.