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Lahore is widely accepted as the cultural and Epicurean capital of Pakistan. This ancient city boasts restaurants that blend the intense flavors of subcontinent cooking with cosmopolitan flair. Restaurants populate all areas of the city, no different than in the states. Another commonality - the ubiquitous Golden Arches of McDonald’s. A few days into our stay, my wife and I began to notice the McDonald’s a few blocks from my aunt’s flat. We eyed it, and joked about visiting. It taunted us with the promise of processed foods and perhaps a nostalgic taste of home, which we longed-for, despite the excellent Pakistani food we had sampled so far. So, like good Americans, we went.
We ordered the McArabia, with its’ “Arabic”-style flat bread, lettuce, mayo and tomatoes - served with either grilled kofta (beef) or grilled chicken. The billboards across town showed a guy who proclaimed in Urdu “I ate it… and it tasted good!” I got it with chicken. It tasted like… well, it tasted like McDonald’s attempt at ethnic food. Maybe a few extra spices in the chicken, and the pita bread was decent. Better than anything I’ve had at a McDonald’s stateside. But yet still I felt guilty eating it. It was clearly fast food, and easily the least healthy thing I ate in 2 weeks in Pakistan. The fries were disturbingly identical to every fry I’ve eaten at McDonald’s over the years. My wife ordered a Big Mac, which again, was strikingly similar to the sandwiches served in the states. We even tried dessert, a Strawberry-custard pie, in the same family as the apple pies we’re all familiar with. Same box, same sinfully margarine’d crust, same hot filling. Instead of artificial apple, artificial strawberry. We did smile while we ate, and it will be a fond memory. But as we left, both of us complained about our stomachs, and for the first and only time during our visit, we were uncomfortably full and discomforted by a meal.
The Author and his McArabia sandwich: