We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

The gloves are off

I have long defended an American corporation, much hated by anti-globalisation types, greens, leftists, even many conservatives. While many seem to think that the mission of said corporation is to destroy all that is good in the world and to act as a back door through which America can destroy local colour and local traditions, I have found it hard to fault a company that sells hamburgers to people who voluntarily choose to consume them, that has introduced the concept of the public toilet to many parts of the world where the idea was lacking, and generally provides excellent customer service to go with its slightly questionable food. I have found it hard to see anything sinister in that.

But alas, in the Praça da Liberdade in Porto on Saturday, I discovered that those brave battlers against corporate domination of the world were right. For the era of concealment is over. McDonald’s restaurants are now established in most of the world, and they can finally allow their true ambitions and the true scope of their mission to become clear. The time for hiding is now, clearly, over.


I will confess that despite their obvious sinister ambitions, I quite like the new logo.

45 comments to The gloves are off

  • Brock

    That’s awesome. Where is that, precisely? Can you give me a city?

  • Noel Cooper

    Where is that, precisely? Can you give me a city?


  • RAB

    Prefer Burger King myself.
    It’s the illusion of flames having been any where near it that fires me up!
    Oy You Yanks!? Why didn’t we get Dairy Queen over here instead of the above?
    To my 21 yr old palete back in 73, they were the business. Lousy marketing I bet.

  • Verity

    Oy, you Brits! Why is it so difficult to get Marmite in the US?

  • RAB

    Assumes Lesley Phillips Accent No 1.
    “Hellloo ! why would you want that nasty old marmite stuff when you can come back to mine for a cup of Bovril” Hmmm..

  • Jake

    Now you know. The US government has outsourced the State Department to McDonalds.

  • lucklucky

    oh oh you have been in Portugal 🙂

    Well maybe you could have meet the guys from Blasfémias
    a Porto’s Libertarian Blog ablasfemia.blogspot.com Curious thing in Portugal libertarian/right blogs are most important political blogs of Portuguese blogosphere but in “real” political world for ex: next presidential election there is already 4 left candidates and if our former prime minister Cavaco Silva takes the race will be 4 left+ 1 centrist…

    Btw i was expecting some samizdata tips from Polish Election. Civic Party seem that got 24%…

  • lucklucky

    Btw the Eagle in McDonalds must be for sure some SERIOUS provocation from Benfica Supporters inside enemy gates Hehehe. Porto Football Club symbol is the Dragon, Eagle is the Benfica symbol. So nothing related to world domination 🙂

  • Chris Harper

    Marmite?? But a pale imitation of the real thing.

    Vegemite rules, ok!!

  • Julian Taylor

    Just be thankful the eagle’s wings are not fully outstretched and its perching on a large ‘M’. That would be slightly too obvious methinks.

  • The Wobbly Guy

    Strangely enough, McDonalds has better fries, and Burger King the better burgers. At least where I live.

    Oh, to be stuck for choice!


  • HJHJ

    Verity, I always used to take small bottles of Marmite and Colman’s mustard to the US to give to US colleagues. Quite part from the goodwill aspect of giving them a little present from England, it was amusing to wait for the reaction:

    Wow, what’s in that mustard [cue sounds of steam exiting the ears]?!
    (Answer: mustard and little else)

    Even more fun if they had spread the Marmite like peanut butter. Perhaps this is why it hasn’t caught on in the US?

    Incidentally I’m very familiar with both Marmite and Vegemite. Marmite is clearly the superior product (Vegemite has the appearance and texture of mud), but I will use Vegemite if the real thing isn’t available.

  • Dick Cheney

    1 – Lesley Phillips? Has he chAnged sex? OO Mrs!

    2 – Re Polski election – I prefer Liga Polskich Rodzin m’self.

  • Ted

    Remind me not to order the McChicken burger there….

  • Jacob

    “The US government has outsourced the State Department to McDonalds.”

    A brilliant idea.

    Never understood what the State Department is supposed to do. It certainly hasn’t evr done anything useful that I can remember.

  • Ray P

    If I hear McDonalds, Wendys & Burger King are signing some sort of tripartite agreement, I’ll start to worry.

    Hmmm. A well-greased axle…axis…?

  • I like McDonald’s but oddly never eat there when I’m in America. Why would I when the likes of In & Out and Carl’s Jr are available? It’s about time a few more fast food chains went global.

  • Verity

    Yes, I will gladly accept Vegemite as a substitute if Marmite isn’t available. It’s delicious in its own way. But that is even rarer on this side of the Atlantic. I suspect that the reason Marmite never caught on in the US is, Americans seem to be predisposed to sweet, rather than salty, tastes. A lot of their soup is loaded with sugar.

  • Luniversal

    McDonald’s was badly rattled by the publicity over those two protestors whom it sued for libel, and is desperately trying to cultivate a more touchy-feely image in Britain. Instead of obesity-fostering burgers, suddenly it’s all sandwiches and salads. No more ‘Go Large’ but lots of healthy options and diet info. A small sign that even the greediest behemoth can be cowed by the truth, and the culture of waste shamed by the gallantry of idealists. Next up: Asda, alias Wal-Mart.

  • MP

    It was an old coffee/tea house. Think Macdonald’s was only allowed to explore the place if they kept major architectonical lines, interiors included. Old name was Imperial Cafe, so they had to keep it, and so revealing the true nature of the business 😉

    Not sure, but I think that’s the story.

  • RAB

    Damn! and Double Damn!!
    Sorry Verity I get you all of a sudden.
    Bad Marketing!
    Marmite and Dairy Queen both.
    You are a smart and sassy lady!

  • Nixk Timms

    I applaud the business of McDonalds but if they had to rely on me they would go bust quick. I find the food simply indigestible. However what do I know? I adore marmite sandwiches, black olives, anchovies and caviar. (not all together) Perhaps it is that salt thing that Verity mentioned.

  • Richard Easbey

    Okay, I have to ask (as an American who loves Samizdata): what the HELL is Marmite? I have to tell you, it doesn’t SOUND appetizing, so a name change and some better marketing might be in order… thanks in advance to my friends on the other side of the Atlantic for your anwer!

  • RAB

    Well since you tempt me Richard, and I think you have put your finger on this; Marketing is definately a problem for this product.
    Think the colour and consistancy of sump oil. Then blend in a little salty sand and grit and you’ve got Marmite.
    It’s a vegetable extract. Which vegetable exactly has never been explained.
    Nor indeed, how it got extracted(humanely I’m sure!).
    It is the vilest tasting stuff in a Galaxy of Douglas Adams universes, but it was supposed to stop a whole generation getting richets or somethin.
    So like I’m not backward with my marketing, how many crates do you want Richard?

  • Tatyana

    OMG, Michael, I even know where it is exactly!

    I was in Porto on Sept 16, and I stayed at Pao de Acucar, 2 steps to Praca De Liberade.

    And no I didn’t enter McD, I fought the temptation and stuck to my decision to eat only local food when abroad. Although I chickened out from Oporto’s famed dish, tripe with rice.

  • Castillon

    I perfer to eat at Wendy’s, Arby’s, Chik-Fil-A or Subway.

  • Castillon

    Nixk Timms,

    Well, McDonalds has seen some sluggishness in growth, etc. lately. I agree, their food sucks.

  • HJHJ

    RAB’s description of Marmite is wide of the mark.

    For a start (and unlike Vegemite) Marmite is completely smooth and has no grittiness whatever. It is also primarily yeast extract. Vegetable extract is a minor ingredient. It is dark brown, shiny and has a very distinctive strong (and salty) favour. You use it in tiny quantities (on account of its strong flavour), typically on buttered toast, but it’s also an excellent addition to stocks, stews, etc. It is considered very healthy as it is very high in B vitamins.

    It is sold in a distinctively-shaped glass ‘bottle’ with a yellow cap. As they say on the adverts “You either love it or you hate it”. Personally, I love it.


  • HJHJ

    I forgot to mention that yeast extract (from which Marmite is primarily made) was originally a by-product of the brewing industry. Marmite has been around for over 100 years.

    Inferior derivations, like Vegemite (Australian equivalent), contain additions such as caramel.

    You can even buy Marmite-flavoured crisps (potato chips in American parlance).

  • HJHJ

    The best analogy I’ve heard to the taste of Marmite is anchovies. It has a similar intensity and saltiness of flavour (although it’s not at all fishy).

  • madne0

    Just a small nitpick: It’s “Praça da Liberdade” (Liberty Square) not “liberade”.
    That place used to be a famous coffee shop called “Cafe Imperial”. They kept most of the original architecture intact, and it’s quite a site. Definately the most beautiful McDonalds restaurant i’ve ever been in.

  • madne: Damn. I went to all that trouble to get the cedilla right, and then I made a spelling error. (I have now gone and fixed it in the article).

    Of international chains, McDonald’s use of interesting old buildings is far inferior to that of Starbucks, who are extremely good at respecting the history and architecture of a building and still making it definitely into a Starbucks.

  • RAB

    Just a little poetic licence there HJHJ. It is definately a love it or loathe it kind of taste.
    My three least favorite tastes are Marmite, Bovril and anchovies.
    Ych yr fi !

  • HJHJ


    It is a well known fact that people that don’t like Marmite are not be be trusted.


  • Midwesterner

    Years ago when the hit song about the “vegimite sandwich” was on the charts, a bunch of us midwesterners asked an Australian coworker what it was. On her next visit home she brought back a jar.

    At work during break she takes out a loaf of bread and the jar of vegemite. Judiciously she puts a small ration on each slice and distributes them. We all stand around in a circle, thoughtfully nibbling vegemite sandwichs with the glazed look of wine tasters. Reviews were mixed. I wondered if perhaps there mightn’t have been a mixup with the labels. Or maybe a bad batch.

  • madne0

    I wouldn’t know about Starbucks. As far as i know there aren’t any in Portugal! I think those large cups of coffee aren’t to our liking…We prefer the small, yet hypercharged with caffeine, “bicas”.

    PS: Another nitpick. It’s “cedilha” not “cedilla”. That’s Castilian i believe 😉

  • Tatyana

    MadneO, you took it from my lips. Bicas is what I miss most, back to NY, from my Portuguese vacation. Or, well, not true, the list is long.

    Starbacks can’t come close to a hole-in-the-wall, 2 tables-on-the-sidewalk, not especially sparkly-clean cafe on Flower Street in Porto (sorry, can’t write in Portuguese), between antique jewelery and junk stores. And the almond tarts…

  • Verity

    Well, now we know that HJHJ loves his Marmite. Well, so do I, but you can’t get it here. A friend is bringing some down from British Columbia with her, but the jar is so heavy, she doesn’t want to pack more than one.

  • madneo: I can’t imagine that Starbucks will open any stores in Portugal soon, either. Espresso coffee seems to be available everywhere in Portugal, and it is very good and very cheap. I can’t imagine Starbucks could make money in your market. The situation is quite different from that of England and most of northern Europe, where coffee was unsepeakable before Starbucks and similar chains entered the market.

    As for “cedilla”, I will stand my ground. This particular diacritical is not used in English, but the English spelling of the word (used when English linguists are talking about other languages) is definitely “cedilla”.

    Is it used in Castilian? I am not sure I have ever seen it, although I think I have in Catalan.

  • RAB

    I’m glad you restricted your criticism of coffee to England Michael.
    Cos you used to be able to get amazing coffee in the S Wales valleys since before the war, on account of a large number of Italian immigrants who came from one small region.
    They ran all the cafes in the Valleys and there were literally hundreds of them.
    Oh and the ice cream they made!!!!
    Scuse me a minute, I hear the Fridge calling.

  • sally

    I find Macdonald’s nauseating, even the smell as you walk past is foul.
    Luniversal – I disagree – their new salads and baguettes etc – surely they’ve been pushed into offering those due to competition from Subway?

  • RAB: That’s interesting. My terrible confession is that I have never been to Wales (except in the very technical sense of walking across the Severn Bridge and then walking straight back again). This was (and is) a characteristic of my native Australia too. The large number of Italian immigrants who came to Australia post-war also brought their espresso machines with them, so good coffee was also readily available in Australia long before one could buy a decent (or often any) espresso in England. Although Starbucks and similar have found a niche in Australia, it is a much smaller one than in England – they weren’t conquering virgin territory the way they were in England.

  • madne0

    Michael: I’m 99% sure Cedilla is used in Castilian. Maybe it was borrowed into the English language? I’m no linguist, so i’ll stay quiet now.

  • The McDonalds down here in Cascais is nothing like that one, for sure.
    As to what is Marmite? Essentially it’s boiled yeast. Tastes a great deal better than it sounds too.

  • Marmite has come to Tallahassee, Florida, in the local World Market store. I think it’s a shame, really. I used to bring back odd things like that from overseas and now any local can get them any time. It’s a bit frustrating. Every town in the world will eventually have every local delicacy from every other little town. Then there won’t be any reason to travel. One exception. On a trip to New England I brought back some Moxie soft drink (“tonic”). I don’t think that will ever sell in Florida. But it’s wonderful.