The American burger chain has taken France’s cherished Camembert cheese and stuck a ‘Mc’ in front of it. What other regional variations has it unleashed on the world?
Move over 14 July. The 12th day of February marks the new French revolution. The barricades of France’s famous food snobbery will be stormed by McDonald’s launching its latest “localised” product – the McCamembert.
While you try to digest the news that an American burger chain has taken one of France’s most cherished speciality food products for itself by merely adding the prefix “Mc”, let’s take a moment to recall McDonald’s’ other attempts at cultural sensitivity.
McDonald’s is scheduled to open its first vegetarian-only restaurant this year near the Golden Temple in the Sikh holy city of Amritsar in India. Elsewhere in the country, meat burgers are served, but no beef and pork because of Hindu and Muslim customers. The most popular burger is the McAloo Tikki, with a spiced potato-based filling.
For metric-loving nations, McDonald’s – as famously explained in Pulp Fiction – has kindly converted its Quarter Pounder into the Hamburger Royale, or the “Royale with Cheese”. While in China, it is the “Full Three Taels” – a “tael” being a weight measure used in the far east.
Customers throughout the Middle East can try the McArabia (a grilled chicken sandwich served on a flatbread), in Japan a Mega Teriyaki or in Thailand jasmine rice patties.
But not everyone is thrilled. “We feel used,” says Patrick Mercier, chairman of an association of Camembert producers in Normandy. “They did this without consulting us, without even warning us.”
A review in the French newspaper L’Express said cambembert fans “will be disappointed”, because it lacked taste and, horror, “could even be confused for brie”. But undeterred plans for “Francisation” continue with others regional cheeses on offer, including the Alpine classic raclette.