McDonald’s at the Spanish Steps
In Italy, there isn’t a lot of fast food, but McDonald’s is fairly common in Rome. However, one McDonald’s in particular is tied to something much larger. Just about every article about Slow Food mentions that the organization got its start after unsuccessfully campaigning to prevent McDonald’s from moving into Piazza di Spagna, where the Spanish Steps are. Supposedly, founder Carlo Petrini goes into the campaign in great detail in a book of his. Anyways, I couldn’t help but wonder why Petrini and his friends were so embroiled against this single McDonald’s franchise that it inspired them to found what would turn into an international movement with over 80,000 in 122 countries.
So yeah, I did it. I went to McDonald’s. I got a McCrispy or something, and it was gross. I don’t eat McDonald’s at home, mainly because of the way I have come to think about food (which is in term informed by Slow Foods), but I imagine the food was actually similar. The reason I disliked the experience so much was that it was so un-Italian: bad-tasting food, made with bad ingredients, sold in a hostile environment as quickly as possible. And the customers were mostly Italians! One of the defining characteristics of Italian dining is that it is leisurely. I’ve never had an Italian waiter bring me the check without me asking. Here, that would be rudeness on par with throwing a customer out. In that McDonald’s, I felt like I was still out on street, being mobbed by crowds of tourists. And there, that atmosphere is becoming part of Italian culture. I didn’t like, and I can see why Petrini didn’t either.
photo courtesy of flickr user phototram