As much as we dislike Big Brother, it’s good to know that other nations must also deal with the fussy bureaucratic matrons who are always overseeing the national diet, specifying what and what does not count as edible fare.
Russia, for example, recently told its people to Just Say Nyet to Big Macs.
This surprises me on a couple of levels. OK, I get that with its history of touting the workers’ paradise and all, the land of the tsars might scowl with hostility at one of the greatest symbols of Capitalist Pigdom that free enterprise has to offer.
There’s nothing that represents Western excesses quite like fast food. Six patties per bun, fries served in a golf bag and enough Coke to float the Red October.
But I thought Russia was one of us now. Berlin Wall led to Glasnost led to Perestroika led to halter tops. Done and done. I assumed they were all Americanized now, driving minivans, complaining about their taxes and watching Fox News in their underpants.
Last week, Russia’s chief sanitary doctor instructed the nation to stop eating Big Macs. This is going to be a tough sell, since the younger generations in Russia are already on their way to blissful, fast-food obesity. But McDonald’s food, said Gennady Onishchenko, “is not our food.”
Well, no. McDonald’s doesn’t offer a quarter cabbage with cheese or a McBorscht sandwich.
But the fast-food chain has been around for two decades — that’s a long time for it to get its teeth into their teeth. Still, the Chenkomeister did his best, dropping what I consider to be one of the best quote bombs to be dropped by any sanitary doctor in the history of earth.
After calling the McChicken sandwich “an excuse for food,” he went on to say, “I would like to remind our fellow citizens that hamburgers, even without worms, are not a good choice of a meal for residents of Moscow and of Russia.”
Holy cosmonauts, there’s a slam. Even without worms. Couldn’t someone have told him that it was just bacon? McDonald’s got him back, though. It issued a statement indicating that it would be impossible for McDonald’s restaurants to have worms because its food is inspected by none other that Onishchenko’s own sanitary commission. Check and mate.
Remember when international incidents arose out of things like territorial invasions and nuclear weapons?
Today, sheesh, nations get their earbuds in a knot over fast food or a simple statement about Olympic security. But this is good, right? If the only thing we’d had to worry about in the 1960s was the Cuban Burger Crisis, we would have saved a ton on fallout shelters. Send your envoy overseas to negotiate condiments.
Still, Onishchenko faces an uphill fight. Even some Russians who never ate at McDonald’s said they were going to start, just to be contrary. This isn’t the doctor’s first food fight; he’s had a go at sushi, wine, cheese and other foreign products.
There is a rudimentary stab at locavorism in his message: “If you are fond of American chicken legs, you will get them soon. But Russian legs are better. There are less antibiotics and hormones in them. Our legs are better. Buy our legs.”
Their legs won’t be better if they keep eating fast food, I guarantee you.
But it’s hard to go up against burgers and fries with stewed fruit and beet soup, not that Onishchenko isn’t trying.
“We are people with established traditions and must not fall for exotic types of food,” Onishchenko said. “Eat what is inherent to your genetics,” he said.
I didn’t know drumsticks were exotic. But point taken. Some other nation’s chicken might come with worms.
Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 6997, or via email at email@example.com.