Gudmund Gudmundsen returns to the table with a plastic tray loaded with El Maco salsa burgers, laksewraps (fried salmon rolled in something like a taco), chili-cheese tops, what looks like deep-fried cream cheese stars, a side of carrots, and two beers.
I’m dressed in shorts and a windbreaker, hustling through the street entrance, quickly scanning the room to join Gudmundsen. “Sorry I’m late,” I say. I cast a dubious glance at the tray.
He catches the glance. “Come on, get over yourself,” he says in fluent but slightly accented English. “This is really good food — fresh, tasty, and…” he holds up an orange carrot slice, “and colorful!”
McDonald’s in Denmark look like McDonald’s everywhere else — complete with campy primary colors, golden arches, and plastic tables and chairs lit by bright, fluorescent light. Menus are in Danish of course, and offerings often have less saturated fats and calories than their American equivalents. The price of the food is also different — Gudmundsen’s meal for two cost over US$50.
“Yah, sure — some Americans might think it’s expensive, but hey,” says Gudmunsen, “everything is expensive in Copenhagen.” He pops a large cream cheese star into his mouth and munches appreciatively. “You know, we don’t all eat cod roe out of toothpaste tubes, or risk snow blindness with white potatoes, white onions, white cheese, white fish, and white bread,” he says and winks. “Or boiled eggs, white peas, white barley, and white parsnips.”
Gudmundsen was born in Stavanger, Norway, and has been driving trucks throughout Scandinavia for 20 years. Sometimes he treats himself with “American” fast food — as often as not, McDonald’s.
“Throughout Scandinavian McDonald’s, there’s a lot of variety — they’re always changing up the menu — sometimes with seasonal specials, and sometimes just for fun.” He holds up a deep-fried cream cheese star.
“They don’t all have these,” he says. “In Sweden, they sell gluten-free buns. In Norway you can get apple and candied walnut salad, and in Finland they’ve got the Ruis McFeast on rye, and the old 1955 burger. And they’ve almost all got beer!” He looks over at his American companion. “What do you think?”
I look down at the carrots. “Me?” I say, taking a sip. “I like the beer.”