Thursday, April 16, 2015

Whenever I buy fast food I feel like Peter Mandelson in that chip shop

On the way back from Laugharne on Sunday I was seized by one of those hungers only a hamburger could answer. We found one in a spookily quiet service area in South Wales.

I was glad it was quiet because the queue in a fast food outlet is one of those everyday situations in which I'm never quite sure how to behave.

I find myself in a queue at Macdonald's or Burger King or Nando's about once every eighteen months and every time I suffer the same anxieties.

How will I ask for the right thing? These brands offer such a bewildering range of exotically-named options that I can never find the simple, unplugged version, which is usually the thing I actually want.

How will I make sure I don't get too much? If I stagger back to the car carrying a bucket of coffee and a free child's toy my wife will tick me off.

Are the other customers sniggering at how strange I clearly find it all? Do I look like Peter Mandelson in that Hartlepool fish and chip shop, pointing at the mushy peas and asking for "some of that delicious guacamole"?

Of course the fast food outlet is full of traps for the electioneering politician. The menu is made up of stuff you spend your time telling people not to eat. It's staffed by people who get paid next to nothing and probably don't vote. It's usually foreign-owned. As Ed Miliband found, it's difficult to eat cheap food in an elegant manner. And finally and most crucially, your behaviour in a fast food outlet marks you out as slightly posh. Which, being a career politician, you most definitely are.

I see Hillary Clinton (above) dropped in on a fast food place this week. There's a funny piece here speculating how she might have tried to bridge the great divide.


  1. Poor Mandelson will probably never shake this story off, but it isn't actually true. There's a good Simon Hoggart article on the myths that have stuck to politicians from all parties here:

    The other case not mentioned in that article was the idea that Blair lied about seeing Jackie Milburn play. It turns out that he didn't say it:

    But, of course, the problem for both Mandy and TB is that the stories are too neat a fit with the public's idea of them.

  2. Is this because fast food chains all want to trademark their offerings, so that instead of putting a simple hamburger on their menu, it has to be a Big Mac© or a Shack Stack® or a Bucket O'Lard™ - and the occasional visitor has no idea what they're talking about.

  3. I find the idea that fast food is cheap to be a peculiar one.

  4. The nearest I ever get to Fast Food is a day trip to the seaside. Along with the biggest "99" I can find, a hot dog or two is essential before I blow a couple of quid on the slots.

    And....Fish And Chips.

    No etiquette required, other than "Open" or "Wrapped".