We are reaching the end of the Chinese New Year celebrations here in Singapore, and we have successfully transitioned to the Year of the Dragon. Here, the Chinese or Lunar New Year is associated deeply with prosperity; for all of our wealth-obsessed ways, there’s no American holiday quite like it. Oranges, abalone, tins of biscuits…all these things are given to loved ones or party hosts as a token of good will and in hope of wealth and success in the coming year.
McDonald’s has even gotten into the act, offering the Prosperity Chicken Burger and the Prosperity Beef Burger. (As an aside, the word ‘beef’ is used as a descriptor more often in Singapore, as an assurance to Muslim consumers that said food is not derived from pork. Hence, beef burgers, but also beef bacon, and so on.) It looked like a high end offering in the advertisements– a sesame-seed artisan bun, drenched in what appeared to be a sauce from the successful McRib sandwich. I went to the nearest mall, and bought one to “take away” (which is what they say rather than ‘take out’ here.) Back in my apartment, I unwrapped the sandwich. It was a mess, with “prosperity sauce” smeared haphazardly across the outside of the burger, and onion slices careless tossed about, some of which were also sticking to the burger’s outside.
I took a bite, and was immediately reviled. The sauce was dull yet pungent, the chicken overprocessed, and bearing only the slightest resemblance to actual meat. It immediately caused a migraine, and put me out of commission for the next two hours. It was by far the worst food product I have ever tasted from McDonald’s in any country. (Do you hear me, Mickey D’s? Even the British McDonaldses made better food!) But the demerits of this chicken burger went far beyond its physiological and gastronomic transgressions. To wit, the Chicken Prosperity Burger was so bad that it caused a moral and existential crisis within my soul.
Because of this dreadful experience, I’ve decided to pull the trigger on something I’ve considered for a long time. McDonald’s food is now quite lackluster, but thanks partly to my fiancee making me more aware of food issues, and where my food comes from, I am also alarmed by their food production policies, treatment of animals, and environmental sustainability. So, on the all-seeing internet, I hereby make the following pledge. I will from this day forth not purchase any more meat or dairy products at McDonald’s, with the possible exception of one shamrock shake annually around St. Patrick’s Day. Coffee, apple pies, and the such are fine, but no more burgers or snack wraps or McNuggets.
This is scarcely effective in the global sense, and probably sounds like a silly protest, and i will gladly concede that this point is true. Yet, I cannot help but wonder at its personal significance. When I was growing up, McDonald’s was a staple; my dad would get us dinner there once every two weeks, perhaps, and there were countless breakfasts, roadside lunches, and childhood birthday parties of friends. More significantly, McDonald’s is a place I always associate with my grandparents, whom I loved very much. They would often take my brother and I there, as we’d eagerly get a Happy Meal with the latest movie or cartoon tie-in. Forgive this historian for being a bit melodramatic, but I cannot but feel that in casting away most of McDonalds’ wares, I am also repudiating some of the happiest and most meaningful experiences and memories of my childhood.
As this Lunar New Year begins, I hope I can cultivate new memories, of eating healthier and tastier alternatives. My theology professors as an undergraduate talked of “habits of holiness,” deeply ingrained practices that were personally meaningful while fostering spiritual discipline. I hope I can cultivate new “habits of healthiness.” In this, I hope for prosperity, even as I reject prosperity chicken.