Early December, I taught a lesson on obesity and the dangers of eating too much sugar and fatty foods. In retrospect this wasn’t nearly as relevant for my students as I would have hoped, as almost all of them are severely underweight and many of them have never eaten fast food due to financial constraints. (KFC and McDonalds are considered pricey in China, and Pizza Hut exorbitantly so. Pizza Hut is like the Per Se or Masa of China, seriously!)
Anyway, to make learning about poor eating habits easy and fun, I made up a game called FAST FOOD FRENZY. How do you play Fast Food Frenzy?
First, I reviewed the basic fast food items you find at a McDonalds in a PowerPoint. The funniest comments came from the slide for milkshakes, when I asked the kids to guess what flavors they were:
Next, the game.
- Each team has one cashier; everyone else is a customer – roles will rotate throughout the game
- Each team has the same exact menu, and 30 orders printed on small papers
- The team that gets through all the orders the fastest AND most accurately will win
So this was fun, a chance to listen to the kids say “I’d like to order a large Pepsi… a double cheeseburger… and small fries please!” and the cashier replies “Is that all? Your total is $12.50. NEXT!”
Because it’s the holiday season and I’m no Grinch (and I miraculously found my Citibank card- WOOHOO!!), I took the winning teams from each class to an American fast food restaurant… but first, I preemptively took the guys out to Charlie’s.
The Boys: Charlie’s Burgers
The boys in all 3 of my classes are always being outgunned by their female counterparts. The guys have decent written English but their speaking needs a lot of work. Anytime there is a competition, the teams that are unfortunate enough to have William, James, Lorin, or Coulson are guaranteed to lose.
Class 1 Winners: McDonalds
McDonalds is the gold standard for fast food. Everyone loves a Big Mac, chicken nuggets, and some greasy french fries. Chinese McDonalds also offers peppery chicken wings, which were DELICIOUS.
The girls sent me a photo after we finished our meal, where they inserted the dialogue from Forrest Gump into our lunch. (Forrest Gump has been referenced in all 3 of my classes; like Titanic, everyone has seen it, and it is forever associated with America)
Class 2 Winners: KFC
I picked Alisa to order lunch for the group, but “Two Large Buckets of Fried Chicken” wasn’t on the Fast Food Frenzy menu, so she had no idea what to say. It didn’t matter because the cashier didn’t speak English anyway.
KFC in China comes with a warm corn juice and pomegranate tart, in addition to the fried chicken. Just warning you in advance.
Class 3 Winners: Pizza Hut
Class 3 is my favorite, so I took the winning team to the premier dining establishment of Lanzhou; a Pizza Hut! I got a seafood pizza, an assorted meat pizza, and the New Orleans pizza.
After a couple bites the girls all had similar nervous, repulsed looks on their faces
“…it’s so sour!!”
“…why couldn’t you take us to McDonald’s instead??”
“…can we just eat the crust?”
THEY HATED IT. They’ve never had cheese before, and the tangy New Orleans sauce was too much to handle. I’m a bit disappointed they didn’t love it, since these flavors were specifically built for the Chinese taste buds (none of the menu items have tomato sauce because of how tart/ sour it makes the pizza).
Also interesting: the girls had never eaten with a fork and knife before!! I surely thought they must have used a fork at some point in their lives… but they all said it was their first time. This was evident in the way they held the knife in the wrong hand, and Amanda struggled as she ate the pizza upside down. (then again, who eats pizza with utensils anyway?)
In retrospect the only times I’ve seen a fork/knife in China were in hotel restaurants for the breakfast buffet, and one upscale rooftop brunch I had in Chongqing. Any dining establishment that provides a fork or knife is definitely out of the budget for my students, many of whom are from farming families. They’ve grown up in a completely different world from me, and I could learn more from them than they ever could from me.
But really- of all the restaurants in the world to use your first fork and knife: A FREAKIN’ PIZZA HUT!
Disclaimer: All opinions shared in this blog are the author’s own, and do not represent the views of any outside organization, including but not limited to the United States Government and the Peace Corps.