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How's Bayou? A few of my favorite McDonald's

A moment of sanity in the mall

Christmas Day. Everything I wanted, including two business-class round- the-world reward tickets from the Santas at United Airlines. So, reindeer, who won this round?

In 1963, when I was a 16-year-old junior at St. Martin's Episcopal School, circumnavigating the globe was far from my mind. What counted was that the seniors were in Washington, D.C. for the week, and we had the privilege of going off-campus for lunch at the brand-new McDonald's just across from the Headmaster's Residence on Airline Highway.

It was the original style, outside counter service only, with two large yellow semi-circular arches anchoring the sides of the small structure. I remember the tall illuminated sign boasting: More than One Million Sold -- a hefty number in those days.

In the 1980s, I remember a monologue that was part of the Native Tongues series inaugurated by Times-Picayune writers as an avenue for creative expression. Local actress Carol Sutton set the scene for the musings of a poor woman whose sole solace seemed to be visits to a McDonald's, by then offering interior restaurant seating.

"It's so warm in here, and so clean . . . spotless," I seem to recall her saying. "And the people, they're so nice." In a crazy world that found her expendable, the character found comfort and acceptance.

So for me, McDonald's has always meant more than a quick meal (and now, a Senior Coffee). It's represented both the freedom of youth and a community, something I see today in the Clayton, Georgia, McDonald's, with its gas-log fireplace, around which senior citizens gather each morning for a Senior Coffee and sausage biscuit or chocolate-chip cookies, for less than two dollars.

Last weekend, as I completed holiday shopping at Lakeside Mall, I spotted a young mother, with her baby in a stroller, waiting in line at the McDonald's in the food court. Warm. Clean. And the people did seem quite nice.

I have my favorite McDonald's around the world, and in the next few weeks I'll be writing about them, as well as exploring some new ones, to compare the cost of a Big Mac Combo Meal (burger, fries and drink for just over $6 at Lakeside) at locations across Europe, Southeast Asia and the Pacific.

I may try the bratwurst sandwich in Germany, the noodle special in Thailand, or the miso in Japan. And I'm sure I'll be "lovin' it."

Don't forget: Reagan and Gorbachev may have ended the Cold War, but it was McDonald's that taught Russian service staff how to smile and be polite.

Things Carol Sutton knew about all along.How's Bayou? the secrets of remaining sane while running an upscale B&B on Bayou Lafourche, is written weekly for NolaVie by Keith Marshall, a former Rhodes Scholar and graduate of Yale and Oxford universities who now runs Madewood Plantation House in Napoleonville.

How’s Bayou? the secrets of remaining sane while running an upscale B&B on Bayou Lafourche, is written weekly for NolaVie by Keith Marshall, a former Rhodes Scholar and graduate of Yale and Oxford universities who now runs Madewood Plantation House in Napoleonville.