Globalization entails an undeniably creepy element of reliability, especially when it comes to food. Everywhere you go it seems as if corporate cancers have begun to feed on (as well as feed) the locals, the whole world becoming like a backdrop to a bad science fiction novel.
Even amidst the most ancient food cultures and in the most impoverished settings, you can find Ronald McDonald or Colonel Sanders, heralding a new era for the people who stand beneath their florescent glow.
But when we see so many brands, like recurring nightmarish memories, situated in bizarre contexts, it is not so simple as to claim cultural imperialism on the part of the west.
I mean, people like the stuff. I know I do.
I'm a pretty dedicated coffee drinker so Starbucks is not only a comfort but a necessity here in China. And not just for foreigners like myself.
"I just like to go there on the weekends, and just sit there for a few hours," a chinese friend told me while we were walking through Xidan shopping district, after having remarked on the pervasive presence of Starbucks in Beijing.
And why shouldn't he? The environment that Starbucks has created at many of its venues here is not only cozy, but also incorporates Chinese design and art. Starbucks, like other brands, has made an effort to be region-specific.
Starbucks has green tea lattes and a meal at KFC comes with a side of rice rather than mashed potatoes.
I have read quite a bit about the success of KFC, McDonalds, and other fast food chains in China, but frankly, one doesn't have to read much to understand the phenomenon.
The price point for these places is a little higher than traditional Chinese fare, but the expanding wallets of Chinese customers seem to match their expanding waistlines.