Six Head >
by Erica Garza
We ate McDonald’s in every big city we visited in Europe.
I was nineteen. He was twenty. There couldn’t have been a better romantic match for either of us, considering our eating habits. Neither of us had ever cooked meals for ourselves. Back in the States we still lived with our parents and we happened to be raised by very good cooks. I still can’t duplicate Mom’s albondigas soup or her kielbasa dish. I have the recipes; I’ve tried dozens of times. It’s just not the same. His dad would set up meals weeks in advance, displaying menus on the fridge for the whole family to see. Big planning led to extravagant meals with various courses. He couldn’t compete with that.
Personally, I considered myself a master of sandwiches and microwaved meals. If I was really feeling ambitious, I could make a killer boiled egg. He wasn’t so bad at quesadillas. Just sprinkle some Kraft cheese on a Mission tortilla, pop in the microwave for 15 seconds, turn over for another 15, and then dip into Pace Picante sauce. Set.
Studying abroad in Florence, neither of us had much money or microwaves. We did have munchies all the time and access to McDonald’s.
Of course there were times we splurged and feasted on the local fare. I adored ravioli con quattro formaggi and gelato. We often ordered pizza—prosciutto and mushroom—and hot guys on Vespas would deliver them with cans of Coke.
But almost every day in Florence, on lunch breaks from our Italian classes, or after we’d been out all night drinking, there would be McDonald’s with its low prices and familiar flavors.
It wasn’t that we were homesick.
Neither of us wanted to go back home to California.
It wasn’t that we were afraid of trying new things.
We got lost walking the city streets for hours and planned exciting adventures to other countries.
We just didn’t consider eating local food a big deal. The trip would be over soon and with it our chances to indulge, but somehow, this didn’t seem like a pressing matter. Days and weeks and months flew by and we never felt like time was running out until the very end. And even then, we weren’t full of regret. We saw long lives ahead of us filled with many more opportunities to dine right.
We ate McDonald’s in Venice, in Rome and in Naples. We found them in Amsterdam, in Munich, in Zermatt. We discovered them in train stations and malls and in the most beautiful squares I’ve ever seen.
While our classmates were exploring ziti and risotto, bistecca Fiorentina and osso buco, we were ordering Chicken McNuggets and Big Macs in Italian. They laughed at us for how often we ate it, but we didn’t care what they thought. We didn’t care about much those days. Except hanging out with each other and wasting precious time.
published 19 July 2014