The Big Mac has been around far longer than me. Created in 1967 and nationally available since 1968, the Big Mac is one of the most popular sandwiches in fast food history. I remember the slogan they played on TV for the burger when I was younger: “two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions, on a sesame seed bun.”
Last night my wife, in the middle of her unexplained, once-a-month desire to eat everything in sight, wanted to go to McDonalds. My relationship with McDonald’s throughout my life has been a turbulent, stop-start one. As a child it symbolized everything that was good and right with the world;
a place where food (not very important) was accompanied with toys (extremely important). Once I developed taste buds that recognized more than just sugar and toys became less important, I visited McDonalds less and less.
Eventually, after reading a few books depicting the evils of large corporations and commercial scale cattle raising, I decided I would no longer visit McDonalds. This continued for a year or so but when you live in a foreign country sometimes the potential for a taste of home is a strong
pull, so eventually my self-imposed ban on McDonalds was lifted. One thing I need to clarify before moving forward; I know what a good hamburger tastes like. I’ve been cooking for years, I’ve even been hired as a consultant for restaurants who wanted to improve their burgers. McDonalds doesn’t make a great burger, I know this, but there’s a time and place for everything and sometimes the familiar flavor of a Big Mac is something I can’t resist.
While technically that’s a list of components for the Big Mac, a more accurate version might go (with a slightly less catchy rhythm): “two dried-out patties, minimal sauce, old lettuce, fake cheese, etc, etc.” A lot of the inferior aspects of the burger I can forgive, but for me the one thing that’s absolutely essential to any good burger is juiciness. Usually this is done by selecting the right cut of beef; at McDonalds the only way adjust for their dry patties is to add more sauce to the burger. I learned this as a young teenager and ever since, every time I’d go to McDonalds and order a Big Mac, I’d always get extra sauce. Then came Slovakia.
I clearly remember my first visit to a McDonalds here, and my first attempt to get a decent Big Mac. I was in AuPark with my then girlfriend and we stopped for a quick bite. Not speaking Slovak, I asked her to order a Big Mac with extra sauce for me. The cashier, with a look confusion usually reserved for when a dinner guest goes to the bathroom in your kettle, eventually responded that such a request was not possible. “Of course it’s possible” I instructed my girlfriend. “While adding the sauce, you just add a little more than normal.” “It’s really not possible.” she pleaded.
In the politest raised voice possible, I elaborated. “Of course it’s possible. It’s simple. They’re just being lazy. All they need to do is put more sauce on than they usually do. I’ve had extra sauce added to burgers 100’s of times.” By now the argument had escalated past sauce into one about me raising my voice in a “restaurant”. Angry at the acne-riddled ineptitude behind the counter of McDonalds, I left.
It was 24 hours later that I had my 2nd run-in with McDonalds. After apologizing numerous times to my girlfriend all was well and we decided to go for dinner. I knew where I wanted to go. We arrived at McDonalds (this time the one near Zlaty Piesky). I repeated my order from the previous night, with an identical response from the cashier. I calmly and politely explained that it was possible to add extra sauce to the sandwich. In fact, there is even a button located on the McDonalds keyboard which one would push to order extra sauce. I explained the location of this button to the cashier who, after a minute of searching, exclaimed “I’ve never seen that before!” She then noted “I’ll press it, but I’m not sure if the cooks will know what it means.” I wasn’t sure what she meant. Surely anyone could read an order with the words “extra sauce” written on it and know what that means. Surely.
When we received the order, I gloated. I’d beaten the system. I’d shown you really can get what you want when you explain things in a slow and condescending enough fashion. The cashier had even gone button crazy and put extra sauce on my girlfriend’s order. This was indeed a great day.
We got home and opened our dinners. The sauce had indeed been slightly adjusted. By “slightly” I mean there was none whatsoever. Crestfallen, I decided Big Macs were no longer for me. If I couldn’t get a decent one I wouldn’t order them any longer.
Fast forward 4 years. Returning from a ski trip in Liptovsky Mikulas, my friends and I stopped off at McDonalds in Martin. Standing in line, with none of the specials standing out to me, I decided to attempt to order a proper Big Mac. Nervously I approached the cashier. I explained, now in broken Slovak, that I would like a Big Mac with extra sauce. Noting the confused look on his face, my wife jumped in to help. After taking a few moments to digest what had just been requested of him and the kitchen staff, the cashier nodded and quoted us the subtotal.
At this point I didn’t want to get my hopes up. I’d been down this road before and I knew the outcome. But, I was slightly optimistic. The cashier seemed willing to oblige. He walked back to the burger rack and spoke to the cooks. A minute or two later my burger was ready. The box had a sticker on it which stated the burger was double checked for my satisfaction. This was an impressive operation they were running here. Even if the burger was to be a disappointment they at least seemed to be making an effort.
When I sat down and opened the coffin the Big Mac is presented in I couldn’t help but grin. There, oozing out from underneath the bun, was an abundance of McDonald’s special sauce. I took my first bite and it was wonderful; no longer did I only taste dry meat and wilted lettuce. The burger was complete, juicy and tasty, and once again all was right with the world.
Fast forward to last night. My wife and I spent the past few days in the Tatras enjoying a mini-vacation. On the way back to Bratslava we passed through Martin, and I couldn’t help but fondly recall the perfect Big Mac I had there. Once home we were both too tired to cook and with the memory of that Big Mac still fresh in my mind, we decided to go to McDonalds.
We journeyed to the McDonalds on Racanska and approached the counter. The cashier was a trainee so I was skeptical of my chances, but at least by now my wife knew the drill. “A big mac with extra sauce, please.” “That’s not possible.” responded the trainee. A lengthy discussion, none of which I understood, then took place. “He says it’s forbidden to give extra sauce” my wife informed me. “I told him we would pay for it but he said it’s forbidden.”
“Let me get this straight” I started, “In a restaurant it is forbidden to give a food item to a paying customer, even if they’re willing to pay for it.”
Another discussion ensued and I was convinced that my wife, armed with the weight of my superior argument, would prevail.
Comedian Ron White once said that you can fix many things. You can fix a car, in this case you can fix a sandwich with a little extra sauce, but the one thing you can’t fix is stupidity. I can’t imagine the cashier was telling the truth. I cannot imagine a restaurant would have such a backwards rule, or that a trainee cashier would be so well versed in McDonalds dogma that he’d know of such a regulation. I don’t even see why they would need such a rule, as I’m pretty sure I’m the only person in the country who asks for extra sauce when ordering a burger. I know as an organization as a whole McDonalds doesn’t have this regulation.
So either the cashier was too stupid to extend himself a little bit to give a customer what they wanted, or the management of that particular McDonalds is too stupid to care about whether or not their customers are happy. Once again, much like four years ago, I refused to order a Big Mac, and settled on some chicken burger abomination that left me completely unsatisfied.
If you’ve never had a Big Mac with extra sauce, you’re missing a wonderful thing. Unfortunately, if you want to try it, you’ll have to visit Martin.