News – “How Bootleg Fast Food Conquered Iran” – Mash Donalds, Sheak Shack, and Pizza Hat are very popular.

FORTY YEARS AGO, OPENING A KFC franchise in Tehran was a sign of progress. Today, it’s against the law.

Before the 1979 revolution—before religious clerics took control of the country—Iran’s capital, Tehran, was a cosmopolitan city that glittered with Western influence: secularism, mini-skirts, and fast food chains such as McDonald’s and Kentucky Fried Chicken. But the new ruler, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, pushed a return to Islamic values and removing American influence. And so, women were forced to cover, Western texts were removed from schools, and American franchises were suddenly contraband.

In cutting its Western alliance, Iran became an isolated nation focused on traditionalism and hounded by morality police. Beneath the surface, though, most Iranians maintained an appreciation for Western culture, whether that meant banned literature or McDonald’s-style burgers. If there was one thing the government couldn’t suppress, it was taste. That’s why Iran is now home to dozens of knockoff franchises, from Mash Donald’s to Sheak Shack, that have taken advantage of hostility toward American fast food to serve dangerously delicious burgers, fries, and burritos. You can find the golden arches in Iran; they just have no official connection to McDonald’s.

"Pizza Hot" advertising in Tehran's Central District.
“Pizza Hot” advertising in Tehran’s Central District. ERIC LAFFORGUE/GETTY IMAGES

IN THE 1970S, TEHRAN WAS urbane and opulent. But it was also corrupt. The Iranian government had essentially been under Western control since 1953, when democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh was ousted in a coup organized by the United States and Britain. Like many Middle Eastern affairs, oil fueled the conflict—Mosaddegh tried to audit and then nationalize the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, so they retaliated. The CIA and MI6 planned the removal of Mosaddegh from office, and the role of the monarch Shah Reza Pahlavi evolved from ceremonial to totalitarian (and loyal ally).

I have no idea why I love this so much , maybe because me and Big Al often enjoy a bootleg movie. I would absolutely go to Mashdonalds and Sheak Shack….and DEFINITELY Pizza Hat. I think I also love the move of not even trying to come up with something original and just jacking someone elses shit completely and simply moving some letters around…brilliant.

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