That Stuff Will Kill You

I wasn't actually going to confess this to anyone, but apparently I'm seeking absolution or something, because here it is: I've eaten breakfast at McDonalds twice this week. This may or may not be shocking to you, depending on your opinion of McDonalds, but it's pretty shocking to me, because I generally try to avoid fast food where I can, for a host of cultural, ethical, and (mainly) nutritional reasons that I'm sure I don't need to get into.

But man, you can only be pious for so long, can't you, and after a while a sausage McMuffin with egg starts to sound really delicious. In my defense, I would also like to point out that the McDonalds I have now frequented twice is IN THE LOBBY OF MY OFFICE BUILDING, meaning that since I started working here on Monday, I've been forced to walk past it thirteen times (on the way in, on the way out, and twice at lunch), and the fact that I haven't stopped there thirteen times instead of just two should surely make me a paragon of virtue and self-restraint.

(In a hilarious coincidence, the thing that's in the lobby of my office building back in San Francisco is MY GYM, and I seem to avoid popping in there every time I walk past it just fine.)

The other thing, of course, is that this McDonalds is no ordinary McDonalds, but it is instead a MCCAFE (oh yes!), which is apparently really big in Australia. What this means is that the seating is really sleek and slick and you sort of get the feeling that if the McCafe was in fact a hotel and not a fancy McDonalds, it would totally be the kind that has flat-screen TVs and iPod docking stations and Aveda products in the bathrooms.

What this also means is that I was able to "upgrade" my #4 combo this morning to include a latte (oh yes again!) instead of regular drip coffee. The fact that the latte---well, really it was a "latte" if we're being technical---came from the same sort of industrial-grade machine as the milkshakes and McFlurrys come from is neither here nor there, as it was actually surprisingly palatable. You know how sometimes you just have to watch The Hills, even though every single character on it makes you want to claw your flesh until you bleed, and you're well aware that you should really be watching something earnest and important like Masterpiece Theatre or a documentary on saving the aardvark but you kind of just don't have it in you to change the channel? Well, it's the same sort of thing, I guess: sometimes you just need a bland, milky latte in a non-biodegradable cup with a fast food joint logo on the side, the kind of latte that would make a professional latte artist at, say, Blue Bottle Coffee in San Francisco screech with horror.

(Typing "professional latte artist" just now made me immediately picture a dude in a smock with a paintbrush tucked behind his ear, staring thoughtfully at a canvas decorated with crema swirls, no offense to any professional latte artists who may read this site, of course. And  hey, come to think of it, if there are actually any professional latte artists who read this site, you guys might want to get in touch with the folks at McCafe. Apparently they need your help pretty badly.)

In an effort to right the balance of the universe after scandalously feeding my hard-earned dollars right into the grubby hand of The Man himself, I have been eating fairly locally this week, and it is all thanks to my new Singaporean co-workers who have taken me to some little hole-in-the-wall restaurants that I would never have found myself. I'm not sure if you've ever been to a Chinese restaurant with a person who speaks Chinese (well, three people who speak Chinese, in my particular case) but it is a different experience entirely, and you find yourself trying all sorts of wonderful things.

Yesterday, for example, in a tiny stall tucked away on the top floor of Lucky Plaza, I ate the most delicious chicken rice, which, as well as being Singapore's national dish, is pretty much exactly what you would expect it to be: a breast of tender, succulent roast chicken and some rice, scooped up with a fork and a spoon (the spoon goes in your mouth, never the fork, which is just for corralling food onto the spoon) and made even better with a tiny pinch of  finely-minced ginger from a communal pot on the table.

Together with a can of soda, it cost me the equivalent of $3.50, which my brother and sister assured me, when I got home, is actually on the expensive side as chicken rice goes. This was excellent news, as I have now been so won over by chicken rice that I plan to sample all the chicken rice in Singapore over the next two and a half weeks and, as we all know, the economy is in shambles, so hey, every little bit helps, you know? Unfortunately, I was on such a roll with the pleasing discovery of the chicken rice that I had a why-the-hell-not moment right afterwards and ill-advisedly bought a cup of sugarcane juice that was so sweet---I guess the name should have tipped me off---that I got a blinding headache after half a sip. Still, in the land of new culinary discoveries, one out of two ain't bad, I guess. And at least the sugarcane juice wasn't from a McCafe.

amber of theambershow
Dec 17, 2008

This is so exciting to read about your work abroad! On my list of things to do before I die: Chicken and rice in Singapore, eaten properly with never-in-the-mouth fork.

Dec 17, 2008

how are you not stopping for fries though? mcdonald fries would be beckoning at me all day long. that's my guilty habit..along with the hills. (ugh spencer and his facial hair this week. ick!)

i love the stories you have from working abroad - i hope you share more!

Dec 17, 2008

"(In a hilarious coincidence, the thing that's in the lobby of my office building back in San Francisco is MY GYM, and I seem to avoid popping in there every time I walk past it just fine.) "

Hahaha! If it makes you feel any better, I actually *work* at a gym...and haven't worked out in over a month. I really have no excuse, but I still seem to find them. :)

And I do the same with fast food. I love your comparison with the Hills. It's perfection, and it is so true.

Dec 17, 2008

Hi from a big fan in Singapore! It's great (and a little crazy!) to know that you are somewhere around - have a great time!

Incidentally, the top floor of Far East Plaza has a tonne of great (and super cheap!) food - but your co-workers might already be on to that :)

Dec 17, 2008

Hey if you are near Raffles Place and wanting to try all the kinds of Chicken Rice. Then i would highly recommend trying a place called Genesis.
When i had moved to SG, my sole regret of being a vegetarian was that I would never get to try the national dish - until i went to Genesis. Maybe not as succulent at the real thing - but it comes close.

Genesis - 1 Lorong Telok - on the road near UOB Plaza

Dec 17, 2008

Oh, I feel you on the McDonalds breakfast foods! A while back I lived across the street from a McDonalds and went through a horrible phase of stopping there on my way to work for a sausage biscuit far too often. I eventually decided to cut out fast food in general, and only after that did they remodel into one of those McCafe things. (So I never saw the inside of it post-remodel.) Man, even though I have given up the McDonalds, the memory of those delicious sausage biscuits sometimes makes me want to weep.

I'm also a bit jealous of your plan to sample all the chicken rice in Singapore. That sounds lovely! I'm enjoying your Singapore reports very much, by the way.

Also, off topic, but thanks for the tip on the white noise website. I plan on using that religiously when I go back to work next semester. The department workroom is right across from my office, and some of my dear, dear colleagues have no sense of what an appropriate "indoor voice" is. Anyway, thanks!

Nothing But Bonfires
Dec 17, 2008

Ooh, thanks for these recommendations, guys! There is a whole world of chicken rice and super cheap food to discover, apparently!

Dec 17, 2008

I have a once a month rule for my kids and McDonalds and sometimes that rolls around way too fast for me. Have fun on your quest for the perfect chicken rice.

Dec 18, 2008

They have the McCafés in germany, too, and they go a looong way towards reducing the guilt of eating there. You can totally pretend you're eating burhers at, say, the Hyatt - which is were we get our burgers in Berlin, when the craving gets too bad!
As for the chicken rice, I'll live vicariously through you!

Dec 18, 2008

Oh, I love sugarcane juice with some fresh lime juice mixed in! I used to live in Tropical North Queensland and there was a family who sold it at the Sunday Market. They had a bike type contraction where they fed the sugar cane in, they pedaled and out came lovely, fresh sugar cane juice. It was super sweet, but my husband and I would just share a small cup and that was plenty.

Dec 18, 2008

Ah the McCafé! They are all over the place in France too and have some very nice and totally non-Mcdo like pastries. The one by me looks like a fancy café from the outside.
Also Mcdonalds here in France sell beer and you can get a Kronenbourg 1664 as the drink with your super sized menu at lunchtime, gotta love that!

Dec 18, 2008

I love the tidbit of knowledge about how to properly eat with the fork and spoon!

Do you know that it's been at least a year since I have eaten at a McD's? My stomach and McD's are at war with no hope of a truce in sight.

Dec 18, 2008

McDonald's eaten outside of the US is calorie-free (as well as fat-free and cholesterol-free), just like all food and drink consumed at wedding receptions.

Dec 18, 2008

Totally feel your shame at admitting to McDonalds. My husband and I were recently at McD's in Beijing at 1am. (ok, we were hungry, room service was $$$$$$ and it was 1am!) The place was packed. Long lines, lots of noise. I wanted to take a picture but he was horrified. "people will know we were here"

Dec 18, 2008

I'm so proud of myself for knowing all about chicken rice. Thanks, Anthony Bourdain! Or Andrew Zimmerman! One of you!

Dec 18, 2008

If the alternative was drinking "3 in 1" coffee, I'd justify just about anything else, McDonald's included.

(By the by, the spam filter for your comments is new!)

Dec 18, 2008

You are very brave for drinking a McCafe beverage. I myself felt the desire to do such a thing one night while on my way home when I was shaking in my boots and my car felt the need to take 20 minutes to warm up in the blistering frigidness that is a Midwest Winter. However, it didn’t quite hit the spot as I took one sip and threw it out before I even left the store and which point I decided I should just stick with the Bux.

Dec 18, 2008

i am a mcdonalds's moms quality correspondent for canada. i've been behind the scenes at mcdonalds...and just so you know...the mccafe thing is making it's way to the us and canada soon! (yay) they already have one at the flagship in chicago and a few more that they are testing right now. egg mcmuffin only has 300 calories (much less if you get one without meat...which i do - less than 200!) it's an english muffin, cheese and an egg. pretty healthy if you ask me. they do put a tiny bit of butter on the english muffin - but you can ask them to leave it off if that's a concern for you.

just thought i'd add that. if you are having an egg mcmuffin for's actually kind of a GOOD choice.

Dec 18, 2008

Lucky Plaza! OMG, I haven't thought of that place for like 20 years! I wonder if they still have the food place/store in the basement. I remember eating the best fish balls (on a skewer) with chili sauce when I was in like 5th grade. My family was stationed there for 3 years (in S'pore, not Lucky Plaza).

Emily P.
Dec 18, 2008

I feel your pain...I had a McDonalds on the first floor of my dorm building in college! I had to walk by it everytime I wanted to get on the elevators to get to my room.

Dec 18, 2008

ewwww i made the mistake of buying sugarcane juice on one of the hottest days of the summer (it was seriously about 30 degrees C) and instantly regretted it. i spent the next half an hour trying to hunt down something that was actually thirst quenching but could only find more sugarcane juice! this is truly the stuff of nightmares.

Dec 18, 2008

You must visit the Maxwell Food Centre and go to Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice. This place is always written up as one of the best Chicken Rice places in Singapore. Last time I was there, I finally went and oh my god, they are so right. The line is usually pretty line (it'll snake through the food centre seating) but it moves fairly quick.

I think I'm going to be missing my trip to SG this year - now I really want to go.

Oh, I'm sure you've been there, but the food centre at Lau Pa Sat also has the best satay area set up in the street at night. It's a good time and it's fun to see the different satay vendors jostle over your patronage.

Dec 18, 2008

I haven't eaten at McDonalds in probably ten years, EXCEPT when I travel on an early flight, and then I regularly head straight for McD's hash browns. There's something about the grease and the salt and the smell that parallels nothing else at the airport at 6 AM, especially when it's so early Starbucks isn't even open yet. Plus, I figure it's okay to treat myself to something cozy when I'm going to be cramped into coach all day.

Dec 18, 2008

I did not know the wonders of chicken rice! But I must have some!

Also, I don't know why I watch The Hills, really. But then last night when I watched Monday's episode and Justin Bobby had a hell of a line, I realize I could never quit this show!

Dec 18, 2008

They are huge in NZ too. I know, I lived in NZ and have just moved to AU. The McCafe’s are really nice. WAY WAY better than the normal McDonalds.

Wow that chicken rice sounds delicious! I wish they had great (and cheap) food like that here!

Dec 18, 2008

Oh, i so LOVE the McDonalds sausage McMuffin w/egg burger too..but I'm always afraid of being putting extra weight if I consumed too many in a week. The chicken rice you've tried is rather popular at Far East Plaza. Perhaps the next thing you should try is satays at Newton Food Centre. There's a variety of foods there! Njoy! =)

Dec 18, 2008

This is the best post I've read all day...totally hit the spot! The last time I was pregnant I was very morning sick and the only thing that I ate that made me happy was a McDonald's Egg McMuffin with one hashbrown and a diet coke. I had just started a new job and would go out of my way to drive to a far away McD's and knowingly be late. For my new job. I know. It still baffles me. I have a McDonald's breakfast any time I go on a road trip, which, considering that where I live the breakfast is taken off the menu at 10:30 a.m., means that my trips are scheduled at the whim of whoever decided that breakfast should be done so early. One last note; mentioning a McDonald's breakfast means that now that I've thought of it I will think of little else until I give in. It gets stuck in my head, like thinking about Earls chicken wings or Costco poutine.

Dec 18, 2008

well clearly the marking genius of mccafe should be applauded because just hearing you talk about it, i wanna go!! i wonder if i have to leave the east bay to find one?

Dec 20, 2008

If you're in the Raffles Place area, my colleagues used to swear by the duck rice on Philip Street. Though personally, my favourite roast duck is from Crystal Jade. Remember to get the plum sauce with it. Crystal Jade also gets my vote for good dim sum =) Also, there're great Chinese desserts at uh that building next to Ocean Towers. I think it's called Dessert Hut.

Dec 21, 2008

Right now, nothing sounds better to me than a Sausage McMuffin with Egg. And, I'm snowed in and can't have one (which is really probably good).

Dec 21, 2008

I just got linked to your site...I have laughed this entire post! you are one of my new faves!