The other day whilst trudging through a wind-whipped four-degree day in Chicago, I wander past McDonald’s on my way to the grocery store.  Even in the vacuum of a negative degree wind chill, the stark aroma of McDonald’s penetrates my frozen nostrils, awakening cilia long assumed dead.

Check out the McDonald’s secret menu too:

It is a curious scent, one that evokes childhood glee.  Images of happy meals, french fries, THE GOLDEN ARCHES. That’s when I recognized something startling: It doesn’t smell like burgers, really.  It doesn’t smell like any one thing in particular.  It is a sense memory, a smell not shared by Wendy’s, Burger King or even White Castle (their stench is beyond anything ever).  You could walk me through a neighborhood blindfolded and my nose would recognize that smell.

The smell of McDonald’s brings me back.  I’m six or seven years old, and it’s that fabulous Friday of the month when my parents are going out to eat.  We have a babysitter, a movie, and a promise of Happy Meals.  It is the smell of temporary freedom, a reprieve from a household bereft of sugared drinks or fatty foods, a house that believed in the moderation of sodium.  My mother meant well, but I have spent the better half of my 20’s making up for my lack of salt.  Just ask the billions of corn chips, gallons of mango pickle, and mustardy, meaty ham sandwiches.  They know the truth.

My query is obvious and thus: What does McDonald’s smell like?

Here are our choices:

McDonald’s Smells Like Memories – like my previous example, McDonald’s smell is a thing of ephemera, a glorious sense apex, a utopia that can never truly be grasped

McDonald’s Smells Like Grease – unfettered, usually burnt up grease.  What turns us off when we smell it in the context of, say, a high school cafeteria, delights us in the context of fast food.  Plus they use more salt.

McDonald’s Smells Like Burgers – is there anyone out there who believes this?  Leave your comments, let’s really get down to the nitty gritty.  I need to know you people exist.

McDonald’s Smells Like Awful – Blargh.  Glurgle Flurg.  All of these reactions occur when you, fair voter, encounter McDonald’s mighty waftings.  The horror.  The horror.

Let’s poll it up, folks!

[poll id=”146″]

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6 Responses

  1. Leo

    Yea I was going to say it really smells more like french fries than anything to me. It becomes really overpowering when you walk in to one, too.

    I don’t think “memories” is a tangible smell, so I can’t really vote for that but I agree that the smell of enjoying the crappy food from when you were young activates a certain receptor in your brain that triggers the memory. I really think that smell, by the way, is their french fries.

  2. Cary

    In hindsight, I should have included fries as an option. Still, I walk into other fast food joints that offer fries and none of them have the particular odor of McDonald’s. Curious and curiouser…

  3. Oliver

    Agree with Leo.

    And it’s not fat or fries per se, because kfc, burger king, pretty much any fastfood joint does NOT smell this good or the same. I would guess it’s fat and salt, but it must be more specific to mcd’s.


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