IT’S LUNCHTIME in El Segundo, a small coastal town in Los Angeles County, around 130km west of where the McDonald brothers opened their first burger stand in 1948. Burgers are on the menu today. They come three to a tray, glistening in their brioche buns, piled high with lettuce, tomatoes, cheese and a creamsicle-orange sauce that tastes like mayonnaise-mellowed ketchup. Alongside them are other greatest hits from American fast-food menus: sausages nestled into long hot-dog buns with sautéed bell peppers and onions; sausage patties on flat English muffins; deep-fried chunks of white meat that look and taste like chicken nuggets.
Nothing on the table contains animal products. The brioches are vegan; what looks like meat is made from pea protein. Everything was, as American fast-food usually is, delicious after the first bite and regret-inducing by the third. Though the nuggets were slightly softer than chicken,