Fast Food Dialogue Across The Country


“What’s so bad about feeling good?”[1]

It started in the middle of heat wave that attacked Yogyakarta on June, Bakudapan started with their ambitious (yet exciting) activities in Cemeti Art House, still in the bigger frame of “Fast and Foodrious” project. Each person in Bakudapan has their own interest and various approaches to conducted the research. For me, I interested on seeing what was people memories with fast food, it inspired from my personal experience from childhood. Fast food has always been the sweet treat at the end of a month, as my mother got her monthly paycheck.[2] It’s always been the delightful moment for me.

Speaking about fast food and my childhood memory, I imagined if other people, in other country has the same memory as mine about fast food. Was it makes any sense that we unconsciously sharing the same memory? Begin with this question; I created a Skype session with five participants, from Indonesia, Australia (Win), Germany (Sara), Philippine (Mary), USA (Ave), Vietnam (Hanna), and Thailand (Jill). I imagined there would be slightly resemblance in each person experience. With all excitement and strong beliefs, the Skype session started.

It will never been worked smoothly when it comes to Internet connection, it’s exist, but we never knew how its condition from time to time. So first thing first, we adjust the Internet connection with each person. However we cannot trust the Internet truly, that’s why we lost one of our participants, the one who came from Vietnam. With six participants left, the conversations went on.

The conversations started with the topics of every participant’s childhood memory on fast food. Beginning with this topic, it already quite distinct between each participants memory. To be more specific, it’s the opposite of my memory. For me, going to fast food restaurant more like the special treat, something that I’ve been waiting for days, but for Win and Ave, it’s more like the only choice they had at that time. For, Win and Ave, going to fast food restaurant is more like the only choice they got when they travelled – because it’s the only option that guaranteed the cleanliness, for their toilet, food, and all the facilities they had. Even so, there’s a slight similarity between my memory and Win memory, fast food somehow become her “naughty treat” after doing something good. This “naughty treat” applies when she and her swimming group had their practice, then afterwards they would head straight to McDonald’s fast food chain. According to Win, the boys would have like bunch of burgers as the reward for them after practicing swimming for hours.

Different case applied on Ave, when she was on road trip, their families wouldn’t go to McDonald’s, they preferred Wendy’s, they thought its way more better than McDonald’s. Ave also stated few interesting comments regarding McDonald’s – most of them are dislike comments, how it represent as American, it doesn’t taste that good, and there are plenty options out there to get typical items that McDonald’s serve. Somehow, her statement made me realize, they do have plenty options (in USA) with way more better taste (according to the story) when it comes to burgers, fries, fried chicken, etc. But, how about us in Indonesia? I mean in the past we don’t have much options comparing to now, guess that what makes us thought that McDonald’s do taste good.

Then goes, Mary giving a whole new perspective about fast food, especially about “the other options”. However, for Mary, it’s not other options, but it is the first options when it comes to fast food, which is Jolibee. Jolibee has been the most favorite fast food chain in Philippine, they have a loyal and avid fans. Jolibee was the first fast food chain before McDonald’s came afterwards. When the discussions landed on Jolibee, each participant gave their comments on how Jolibee became that big – some said because of the taste suits the best, other said it was the customers’ loyalty to local products, etc. The chronicle of Jolibee in Philippine made me extremely curious about how this fast food became so famous; more famous than McDonald’s, if I compare it with Indonesian context, where McDonald’s still become the ultimate choice when it comes to fast food.

The conversation went on for two hours, but if I may summarize it with two interesting point on our last minutes of Skype session, it would be two things – health and the feeling of being others. Discussed about the feeling of being “others”, it started from my own experience when I ate at McDonald’s back then. I felt that I instantly became an American when I came to McDonald’s. Nevertheless, it doesn’t apply to the other participant, not exactly the same to be precise. For Jill, the American or the feeling of becoming others only applied when she ordered fast food from drive thru. Different experience with Win, in Australia they were separated between becoming American or British, and eating fast food became one of the points that support it. Other participants, Mary, Sara, and Ave especially, do not feel becoming “others” when they went to eat fast food.

Furthermore, health is the main topic that cannot be excluded, we always mention it when discussing about fast food. Fact that fast food is not healthy already become a common knowledge, no one would doubt it – how it’s lack of vegetables, the fried food, source of the ingredients, and the preparations that remains closed to the consumers. When we had the Skype session, we also mentioned how the organic issues became a hit for the past few years, and how fast food chains react to this issue.

Those two last issues, made me questioning several things for days. Fast food is indeed unhealthy, but it doesn’t taste that bad, even though there are plenty options out there that has better taste. But then, after enjoying a tray of fast food, it left the guilty feeling. If I may simplify my curiosity, how does memory and recent experience creating each person food preference – in this context is in the glorious fast food. What’s makes us feel so bad when it taste good?

[1] Taken from the movie “What’s so bad about feeling good?” (1968), directed by George Seaton.

[2] See the attachment below for the Skype session introduction writing.

Skype session introduction: The Chronicles of McDonald’s Night