Peace Mac: McDonald’s in Sarajevo

Big Mac is alright, but we still prefer the Bosnian cevapi

On Tuesday 19 July 2011, after nearly ten years of negotiation, the first McDonald’s opened in Sarajevo. The celebration was lead by the Bosnian Chairman of Presidency Zeljko Komsic and the US Ambassador Patrick Moon, alongside 300 local VIP guests.

The event coincided with the opening of Sarajevo Film Festival, so in one same week the Bosnians got the best of American mass culture: Brad, Angelina and Big Mac.

Eat your Peace:

The arrival of Ronald McDonald in former Yugoslav countries was often linked to the region’s post-war reconciliation processes. A well-known conflict prevention theory states that no two countries with a McDonald’s have ever waged war against each other. Today’s Pax Americana suggests that once everyone gets their own Peace Mac, there will be no more gun rattling. Bosnia and Herzegovina is the last country of former Yugoslavia, apart from Kosovo, to see the arrival of a McDonald’s. Belgrade got its first already during socialism in 1988, whereas other YU countries followed after the 1990s wars had ended – Slovenia in 1993, Croatia 1996, Macedonia 1997 and Montenegro in 2004. Up to now, the only countries in Europe without a Big Mac are Albania and Iceland. If these two get into a fight, it will be messy, for sure.

In a splice of historical irony, the symbol of global transnational capitalism is now placed in the main city street that still bears the name of the great Yugoslav socialist leader Tito. One of the first customers in Tito street’s new restaurant was the Sarajevo Mayor Alija Behmen who carefully avoided any politically references, simply stating that McDonald’s is the “pearl that enriches the city’s gastronomic offer”.

Bosnian Chairman and the US Ambassador cutting the Mc Ribbon. Boy in blue shirt waits for double cheeseburger.

However, judging by the reactions of Sarajevans, it seems the Bosnian own gastro pearl – Cevapi (a kind of grilled minced meat Kebab) is up for the Mc challenge. On the day of the opening, the owner of Mrkva, one of the most acclaimed Sarajevo cevapi restaurants, greeted its American neighbour with a round of 200 cevapi as a welcoming gift, “in line with the traditional Bosnian hospitality”.

Gifts aside, it just might have been a clever contra-advertising move by the indigent cuisine against its new corporate master. But rest assured the Empire always strikes back: how long before Sarajevo McDonald’s starts serving McCevap?

Published on 19 August 2011 14:23 BST

Via Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso