We Need To Talk. Again.

Remember when I shared my fatal attraction for Kentucky Fried Chicken?  Well, you’re going to have to forgive me, because I am at it again.

Sometimes I just have to do it. Every now and then I am simply overcome by a force more powerful than life itself.  Or at least more powerful than my ability to resist the urge.  Yes; once in a while I go to McDonald’s.  It’s true.  And I eat a Quarter Pounder with Cheese.  Without any pickles of course.  Hey, if you’d spent every Saturday, and every day during every school break for 4 years up to your elbows in a large, green, freezing cold pickle bucket, you might not be so excited about eating pickles either.

Yes, I worked at McDonald’s for 4 years – which given what I do now makes it rather ironic.  And amusing.  Every Saturday during the school terms & full-time during the school vacations.  It was quite the experience.  I ended up earning all 5 of those stars on the yellow name tags that everyone used to wear, and then at some point I made the big time by getting the “Training Squad” patch sewn onto the left arm of my stylish navy-blue-&-white stripey uniform.  I think I got a pay raise at that point too.  That was nice.

McDonald’s was hard work.  I think it is a lot more automated now, but back in the day I would have defied anyone to single-handedly do a 12-turn on the Quarter Grill for any appreciable amount of time without breaking a {serious} sweat.  A one second slip was all it took to get out of sync on that grill & if you weren’t going flat out it could oh so easily be all over in a matter of minutes.  Same goes for the fry-bagging station.  And the Mac grill.  I only know a couple of people at our store who could keep up on the Mac grill during the Saturday rush.  I wasn’t one of them.

But when it came to running the Backroom – I was the bomb!  Backroom involved keeping the entire store stocked up with whatever everyone needed, from milkshake mix to frozen fries, re-hydrated onions to hamburger patties, ketchup to buns, drinks cups to coffee grounds.  The Crew would shout out what they needed & I would go run to fetch it & take it out to them.  It was the hardest & craziest job ever on a Saturday.  I was one of the only people who had ever been able to keep up single-handedly.  I remember one Christmas, I think it was the Saturday before Christmas Eve, I was assigned to Backroom & my helper didn’t show up.  Instead of whining & professing it was impossible, I decided to just go for it.  It was completely mad.  Much to the entire store’s complete surprise, I aced it.  By 3 pm I was completely exhausted, but the kudos afterwards for having achieved what no one thought was possible, magically made it all better.  I even wanted to do it all again.

So I spent every Saturday for 4 years eating the exact same thing:  Quarter Pounder with Cheese (no pickle), large fries, apple pie & a Chocolate Milkshake.  All those calories I ate?  Burned off every last one of them.  Think flippin’ burgers is easy?  Try working at the second busiest McDonald’s in England on a Saturday when the queues (lines) are 9 tills wide & 10 people deep non-stop for 5 hours between the hours of 10 am & 3 pm.  I needed all those calories just to stop me from passing out; all 98 lbs of me that there was back then.  It was a riot!

A few things have changed.  The Quarter Pounder boxes used to be foam instead of today’s cardboard & I swear that the burgers are smaller.  The quarter bun, for sure, is smaller.  Hey, I ate at least 400 of the things during those 4 years that I worked there.  And I made hundreds more.  Trust me.  Those buns are smaller.

Nowadays there are fresh sliced onions.  Way back then they were de-hydrated & had to be soaked for 30 minutes before you could use them.  And the menu is a lot larger now than the simple old days.  No fancy coffee, no salads, no McFlurrys, no breakfasts even.  No cookies, no snack wraps, no chicken sandwiches, no smoothies.  I remember the introduction of Chicken Nuggets.  I remember the day McMuffins arrived.  I have lost count of the number of egg yolks I pierced over the years so that the yolk wouldn’t drip on a customer when they bit into their McMuffin.  Good times!

But McDonald’s isn’t close to my heart simply because I spent so many hours of my life there.  McDonald’s is where I fell in love.  Hook, line & fry basket.  Only I didn’t know quite how much at the time.

Despite the grills being fired up at 450 degrees & the shortening for the fries being close to the temperature of volcanic lava (& yes I have the scars to prove it!), this guy was still the hottest thing at McDonald’s.

He was on the same gig as I was:  weekends during school terms & full-time during the school vacations.  McDonald’s is not a bad way to get yourself through school.  The only difference was that he was a Floor Manager & I was Crew.  I don’t remember the first time we met.  I don’t remember when the sparks started to fly.  But oh my, did those sparks ever fly once they did start.

I wonder if he ever thinks back to those days; those Friday nights when he was the manager wrapping burgers behind the production bin & I was on the till serving customers in my fetching blue & white uniform, adorable little pigtails (braids) & jaunty McDonald’s cap.  Oh & one of those cool yellow name badges with all the gold stars on.

I’d put my hand into the chute to retrieve the customers burger & there would be his hand, for just a second touching mine where no one could see.  Those little sideways glances over the fountain drink dispenser.  That little brush of our arms when we just happened to be bagging fries at the same time.  And inevitably the odd {forbidden} stolen kiss in the store room or the freezer or the calibration room where the syrup tanks were hooked up to the soda dispensing machines.  We did that for a whole year.  No one had a clue.  Oh yeah, we were good.  And then we just couldn’t stand it any longer, so he moved himself to a different store & no one was any the wiser.  You should have seen the looks on the faces of all the crew & managers at my store when I turned up at our Christmas party with him on my arm 2 weeks later.  PRICELESS.  Only trumped by the stunned gasps when they realized we’d been dating for a year, right under their noses & not one of them had figured it out.  SO MUCH FUN!

It is completely impossible for me to eat at McDonald’s without my mind wandering back all those years to thoughts of surreptitious glances & secret winks.  Sigh.  Just even catching a glimpse of those golden arches & my heart still skips a beat.

If we were ever to see each other again I imagine it being rather like that scene in The Notebook.  Yeah, THAT scene.  Except without the torrential rain maybe.  Or maybe with.

I expect he is still listening to John Martyn, cooking great food & stoking log fires.  I expect that wherever he is, he is ridiculously happy.  And if he isn’t, I expect that he is making the absolute best of it.  He always was a glass-all-the-way-full type of guy.

As for me, I am still listening to Phil Collins, making great {SANE} desserts & taking photographs.  I still love Quarter Pounders with Cheese. I still love McDonald’s fries & Apple Pies.  And their Chocolate Milkshakes – although I can’t remember the last time that I had any one of those 3 things.  I do still remember the hottest thing that ever came out of any McDonald’s restaurant anywhere on earth though.  Sigh.

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When people talk about emotional eating, it’s no joke.  It’s as real as the nose on my face – which, incidentally – I wish were smaller.  The foods that we eat can be inextricably linked to good or bad memories, emotions and feelings, and everyone knows that emotions can be strong enough to turn the tide; or at least make us do **really** crazy things.  Like eat disastrously inSANE food even though we know – for sure - that they are bad for our health.  If you don’t believe me, please explain why I only ever cross the thresholds of three fast food restaurants – McDonald’s, KFC, and Jack In The Box – the 3 places that I have intense emotional connections with.  I don’t eat fast food anywhere else.  Because it’s not the food that is the draw – it’s the good emotions that I associate with these places.

Understanding this has given me the willpower to keep driving right on by those golden arches when my brain is screaming for some comfort.  And understanding this has also allowed me to give myself permission to take care of my emotions every once in a while.  So don’t ignore the reality of emotional eating.  Embrace it.  Use it to your advantage.  Recognise it.  Understand it.  Manage it.  And then get right on back to your fabulous *SANE lifestyle, without beating yourself up over it.

McDonald’s: I’m lovin’ it. Or rather, my emotions are.

PS. I’d have taken better pictures for you, but I haven’t been in a really long time.

*SANE™, inSANE, SANEity – terms used in Jonathan Bailor’s books, The Smarter Science of Slim (out of print) and The Calorie Myth.

What does SANE mean? Click here.Want more scrumptious recipes? Click here to check out my SANE Cookbooks!

Michelle Fusman - OMG! Working at McDonald’s was my first real job! I worked at McDonald’s for over two years, learned how to work hard and have fun doing it. To have standards and to provide quick reliable customer service. I’m surprised looking back how much I liked that job. It is of course jaded by the fact that I started dating my first husband there. I too fell in love at McDonalds. He was the crew person with the fastest drive thru time and I was a Crew Trainer. My meal: Double cheese burger well done, cheese only with a small fry and honey mustard dipping sauce. I LMAO when I read your blog. What is the likelihood! We were destined to meet dear lady!

Mark - Lovely memories of the McD’s workhouse. Some things have clearly changed but are those damn apple pies still so hot that you have to eat them the next day? Like a zillion degrees? Happy New Year from all of us. XXX

cb - Ah! Those heady summer days when both brother & sister were sustained almost exclusively by McDonalds grub! You know, I haven’t had an apple pie in forever, but I am pretty sure that they still taste exactly the same & are still as hot. Now you’ve made me want one! Let’s Skype soon. Need to see my munchkins! xxxx

Steve Green - Found your site on del.icio.us today and really liked it.. I bookmarked it and will be back to check it out some more later.

Royce Craigwell - Hi! I’ve been following your site for a while now and finally got the bravery to go ahead and give you a shout out from Houston Tx! Just wanted to mention keep up the fantastic work!

demi lovato - While I don’t eat fast food anymore, McDonald’s will always hold a special place in my heart too. It brings back so many great childhood memories for me.

carrie - Thanks for stopping by, “Demi”! I don’t think I’ll ever stop lovin’ McDonalds, even though I almost never eat it anymore.

Matilda - My first job was at a pie shop. Oh the pies. So yes I understand, and no pie has ever compared to the pies at that pie shop.
Now if I could just replicate a SANE pie.

Sigi - Great post, Carrie. :)

Allisol - Oh what a great post! Your Saturday-before-Christmas situation reminded me of working the dress section of a department store the day before Easter. I busted my chops and earned some serious respect from management.

I love these glimpses into your life. You’re like a good book that we only get to read every once in awhile but when we do it’s AWESOME and we can’t wait for more. I love all your layers. XX OO

carrie - I miss pie too, Matilda! What kind of pie are you after?

carrie - And boy are there ever some layers, Allisol ;-)

Cowgirl Rae - I never worked at the typical fastfood. I worked at a pizza parlor in HS. Funny how to this day I get taken back to the era when I enter a pizza parlor, the smell of the sauce, the smell of the crispy cornmeal in the ovens…. yes it’s a funny thing.
I don’t really like pizza. It’s OK, but not something I’m keen on.

Tom L - Loved this post, Carrie. Loved it! I could hear Barry White playing on the MC’D Muzak in the background…

Really liked the different levels of understanding with regard to emotional eating you brought into this post, and with such a delightful pace to your pros, as well, how delightful it was to read!

I can completely relate. I also like that you caved, ate the goods, and moved on with your life. It is helpful, to know that we are all human, and none of us are perfect, including our role-models (that’s you!!!). So, thank you for the personal share, and giving all of us permission to be human beings, having our moments, and then, continuing on with our journey to follow our SANE goals and dreams.

BTW, your post reminded me of a great movie from the 90s, called Home Fries…Here’s a link to the wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Home_Fries_(film)

carrie - Thanks, Tom! One minor correction – JONATHAN BAILOR IS NOT HUMAN!!!! :-D PS. I am going to have to rent that movie now.

Matilda - chicken and leek pie, and plain meat (ground steak), they would be my top 2.

carrie - Ooh! Chiken and Leek! I’ll be working on these for you, Matilda.

Nancy - Well Carrie, I’ve been a horrid pig. Visited your fair city for the first time and indulged two days in a row on Beecher’s grilled cheese sandwiches. Thought I’d died and gone to heaven. Pretty sure it’s the same as a McD’s and fries which actually also sounds pretty good right now. But NO, I’m home and first thing in the morning it’s back to SANE!

carrie - Nancy – stop beating yourself! I am glad you enjoyed your foray into inSANEity!!! It’s awesome that we can do this once in a while, enjoy it, have no ill effects and then just get back on with being SANE without having to worry about gaining weight or all that blah. Did you love Seattle??!

Nancy - Yes, I LOVED Seattle. Quite a difference from my own fair city (Boulder, CO.) What I really wanted was a kitchen to go cook in after seeing all the amazing produce and seafood.

I did notice that portable food often means bread. Another very eye opening thing was realizing how after you haven’t eaten bread in awhile it instantly screams at you take another bite, take another. Spinach smoothie for breakfast :)

carrie - So happy that you loved my home town Nancy!! We do have good food here :-D

Maried - I enjoyed this post! I love a quarter pounder, though not a part of my normal life anymore. However, every year, on my birthday, I treat myself to lunch at McDonalds for a quarter pounder w/cheese, a large order of fries and a strawberry shake (never thought about the pie!). There’s just something about a quarter pounder and McDonalds fries – and I enjoy my annual treat so much!

carrie - Enjoy your treat, Maried!!!

mara lynn - I am having really bad series of days and I want pretzel crackers in the worst way. At work we have have cabinets filled with processed snacks and the crackers are calling me. I know it is emotional comfort that is needed, but knowing it and liking it are soooooo different. I am eating baked sweet potato – it helps.

mara lynn - pretzel cracker update: knowing it is emotional eating is half the battle after taking 1st step and commenting to you, I got up, took a walk, group texted friends, ate a huge SANE salad and I am now in much better sorts enjoying green tea and xylitiol. Pretzel crackers lost this battle. Thanks to you and Mr. Bailor and your SANE knowledge that you share.

Happy Monday (now it is!)

carrie - Stay strong, Mara Lynn!!! You can do this!!!

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