McDonald’s is mind-boggling. According to Adam Chandler, the author of the recent book, Drive-Thru Dreams, it sells roughly 75 burgers every second and serves 68 million people every day—a little less than 1 percent of the entire world’s population. “The golden arches are thought to be, according to an independent survey, more recognizable as a symbol than the Christian cross is around the world,” Chandler says. This episode tells the story of McDonald’s—but more important, it explores what the chain has to say about who we are. Historian Marcia Chatelain, the author of the new book Franchise: The Golden Arches in Black America, helps unpack the troubled but fascinating relationship between McDonald’s and African Americans. Why did taxpayers end up funding the spread of McDonald’s into the inner-city “food deserts” it now dominates? Who invented the hamburger, and how did it become America’s national cuisine? From a bustling barbecue stand in San Bernardino, California, to Ray Kroc’s location-scouting airplane rides, and from the McNugget to the McJob, in this episode we figure out how McDonald’s became so ubiquitous, and what that means for America.


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