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United Kingdom (GBP £)
In Praise Of...

Sausage McMuffins

by Cat Sarsfield

Proust wrote of the madeleines that brought him back to a specific moment in time, almost as if it was suspended, hanging amongst the stars—yet close enough for him to grab it each time he smelled or tasted those “short, little plump cakes”. One of my many Proustian madeleine moments begins in a hotel room in a sprawling American city. I’d pull back the heavy cloth curtains just a little, gazing out from the dizzying heights of the nth floor wondering if all the people in all those skyscrapers were doing the same thing. This was before I had any understanding of morning rituals, of waking up next to a lover, the sweet smell of coffee, the long, languishing lie-ins where time would fade into the afternoon.

Instead, all I knew was waking up wired; desperate to explore and itching to leave the hotel room where my mother and brother still slept deeply (but never softly). My dad, ever the light sleeper, would be up alongside me, and we’d creep out of the room, me pulling dad across the carpeted hallway to the lift, ready to descend into the madness.

Before the advent of Google, smart phones and touch screens, there was the hotel concierge, who would happily point us in the direction of the closest McDonald’s (welcome to America). Weaving through the streets of some anonymous city (Boston, Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix, if memory serves me right), we’d make our way to our final destination. Glassy buildings served up quick, everything-in-motion reflections of our journey. I was always hungry. For adventure. For action. For a sausage McMuffin.

The order was always the same. Three sausage McMuffins for me, Dad and John; a bacon and egg one for mum. Four hash browns. Three black coffees. Two orange juices. Torture is holding onto a paper bag filled with fried, salty, oily goodness, the smell wafting up as it seeps through the paper, and not being allowed to eat it until you get back to the hotel room. The pace always quickened on the way back.

I’d run into the hotel room, impatient and wild eyed, nudging my brother awake, something I’m sure his teenage brain allocated in the growing ‘reasons why I didn’t want a little sister’ checklist. But there was coffee. And hot hash browns. And soft, squidgy McMuffins. We’d all sit around the coffee table next to the window and dig in. It was something that always marked the beginning of a holiday; a ritual to rally around; something to look forward to and miss when it was over (all too quickly).

I find myself recreating this in later life. Waking up at 6am in a hotel right by LAX, right at the beginning of a two week long road trip, my brother still asleep next to me because he remembered how to beat the West Coast jet lag; me sneaking off to the McDonald’s (conveniently located a two minute walk away from the front lobby). I made the same order, but seeing as I had grown into my palate, I get myself a black coffee, too. By the time I come back, he’s awake and we continue the ritual, eating it around the coffee table next to the window.

Now, it’s a slightly more rare occurrence. A drive-thru here; a hungover pre-train meal there. Something to look forward to. Something to savour. Something nostalgic to bite into. It still tastes the same, which is perhaps the best thing about a good old McMuffin. It doesn’t change. It always brings you back to those youthful memories. And there’s not a souped up £10 breakfast sandwich in the world that can recreate that sense of childhood wonder.

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