Words by: Matt Norman
I stand before you today as your champion.
I stand before you today as your sacrifice.
I stand before you today having gone where no self-respecting burger lover ever hopes to go.
Sometimes, you don’t choose to review the new McDonalds Create Your Taste menu.
Sometimes, you have that task thrust upon you.
But I stand before you today, dear friends, having lived to tell the tale.
My name is Matt Norman, and this is my story.
A few weeks back, Maccas opened up a gourmet build-your-own-burger outlet. It was fairly low-key, and all the way down in Forrestfield. There was a murmur among Perth’s patty people, but for the most part it went unnoticed, like the single pickle you get in a cheeseburger. When Ascot followed, in a more central location, we bun believers were forced to start paying attention. By the time the roll-out of dozens of Create Your Taste stores across the state was announced, the problem couldn’t be ignored any longer. There was no way to deal with this outbreak without knowing what we were up against. It was clear; someone was going to have to swallow their pride along with a mouthful of McDonalds.
But who? In my naivety, I thought I had the perfect plan. I did a brief write-up: introduced the idea, talked about how competitive the burger scene is, wished the Big M luck with their endeavours. I even listed the ingredients I was excited to try – with no intention of ever actually trying them. I don’t even like pineapple. Everything was sweet – I’d made my contribution on behalf of Perth’s sandwich snobs, and now I could sit back and let someone else do the dirty work.
Destiny, of course, had other ideas.
Just a few days after we went live, I received an email from a PR Agency:
We saw your article on Rotunda Media about McDonald’s new ‘Create Your Taste’ (CYT) menu, and just wanted to invite you to come along to one of the restaurants and enjoy a complimentary taste of the new menu.”
They were calling my bluff – I’d been singled out thanks to my own stupidity.
“We note that you had suggested what you would add to your burger, so we hope this will be a good opportunity for you to try the new menu first hand – if you haven’t already.”
I stood up. I paced around the room. There was nothing for it. There was no escape. I sat back down, and with my fingers curling like rashers of frying bacon in apprehension, I typed a message to a close friend and fellow cheeseburger champion. It read as follows:
I’ll pick you up at 7.”
There was only one way to approach the situation – it was time to suit up. If McDonalds were going to get fancy, then so was I.
The next night we were easily the best dressed pair at Ascot McDonalds. A uniformed footman* opened the door and we were greeting by a PR representative whose job it was to ensure that we had a flawless McDonalds experience. We chose a table and were given a short speech about the Create Your Taste revolution. I was pleased to hear that the touch-screen booths at which you select your ingredients aren’t putting anyone out of work – on the contrary, new staff have been hired to assist tech-challenged customers, not to mention the extra chefs who have been added to the kitchen (they get to wear special hats to distinguish them from the commoners). Quickly, though, conversation grew thin, like an insufficient dollop of mayo scraped across a bun-top. Everyone knew it was burger time.
We fronted up to our screens like combatants readying for a duel: feet apart, back straight, arms loose but ready to strike. With a tap of the screen, the onslaught of options began. Three bun types and a lettuce wrap option for the gluten intolerant and the intolerably healthy. Only one patty, but a myriad of other filling options – two bacons, four cheeses, and everything from onion rings to tortilla crisps. There were a whole bunch of salad-y things. There must have been eight different sauces. Then, just when I thought I’d made it – the sides! The drink! They hit me right out of nowhere. By the time I was done, a bead of sweat had made its way from my brow down to my neatly pressed collar. But round one was complete – my order was submitted. Time to rest and recuperate for a few minutes before the main bout.
The turnaround was impressively quick. I had barely regained my breath when our personal waitress** brought out our meals on fancy wooden boards. They looked nice, but appearances had fooled me before – the true hamburger hero knows not to judge a burger on beauty. There was time for a quick snap (see above), and then it began. I exhaled slowly, picked up my burger in both hands, and took that fateful bite.
Burger lovers of Perth.
This may not be what you want to hear, but it must be said.
We have a war on our hands.
These burgers are pretty damn good.
I’d ordered beef with bacon, avocado and caramelised onions, lettuce and tomato, and herb aioli. My bun was soft but sturdy, my meat tasty and tender, and my fillings fresh and well-balanced. I didn’t know how to feel. I was a burger lover undercover at Maccas, gathering intelligence behind enemy lines. The last thing I wanted was to enjoy my meal – but that was exactly what was happening. I did the only thing I could do. I remained all but silent as I politely (and quite happily) finished my burger and graciously accepted a complimentary coffee and dessert. I kept my inner turmoil hidden while I thanked our host and exited the restaurant, never to return. I drove my friend home, then drove home myself. That night I lay awake, watching sesame seeds dance across my ceiling until I fell into a restless sleep.
Fellow burger lovers, the times ahead are uncertain times. We who have found our Buddha between the buns, our Allah in the Angus, our Christ in the crispy bacon – we know that burgers are not just a culinary experience. They’re a way of life, and that way of life must be defended. Is the McDonalds Create Your Taste menu a threat to the sanctity of Perth’s burgers? It’s not yet clear. But as burger lovers, we need to be aware of what’s out there, and ready to fight for the fatty foodstuff we all love. We must not be afraid to take on new challenges. We must not be afraid to get our hands dirty. We must not be afraid to attack the problem in parts when the whole thing is too much to grapple with at once.
Burger lovers of Perth, I hope you don’t feel that I’ve betrayed you.
I hope my efforts have not been in vain.
But most of all, I hope that Perth’s burger scene continues to sizzle like a fresh patty hitting the hotplate.
Let us relish the excitement of a new competitor, and egg on the rejoinders of our home-bred heroes.
What a time to be alive.
*Alright, he was an ordinary staff member.
**Again, an ordinary staff member.