Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Tasteful Reading

Ugh. So, I’m only halfway through reading Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser, but I can already recommend it. That is, if you have the stomach! Yes, my friends, that is a dare.

This book was suggested to me a couple of years ago by Marie Javins. I only recently picked it up after watching the documentary film, Super Size Me, directed by and starring Morgan Spurlock. In the film, Spurlock uses himself as a guinea pig to see what would happen if he only ate at McDonalds, three meals a day for one month. The results are terrifying even as he keeps you laughing, cracking wise, tongue firmly in cheek. That is, until he becomes morbidly depressed and his doctors plead with him to give up the diet after only 3 weeks. The sicko science experiment is inter-cut with interesting factoids, history and interviews. One of the interviews that was filmed after the film was released, is with Eric Schlosser--It appears as an extra on the DVD. The interesting chat, along with other nifty extras, makes the DVD a worthwhile rental, even if you’ve seen the film in the theater. Thank Lord Jesus for my Netflix cue. Next up: The Matador! Huzzah!

Needless to say, Schlosser’s book is much more in-depth and detailed than the Spurlock film. It is also extremely readable. In fact, it’s difficult to put down. Hard to look away from. Like a good train wreck. Luckily, I’m speaking metaphorically and I’ve never been close to a train wreck. I’m sure that if I were to witness one, like the wreck in The Fugitive, it would leave an indelible image in my memory. Just as The Fugitive did. But, that’s another story. What was my point? Oh yeah. The “indelible memory” thing. I was going to say that Fast Food Nation has forever changed the way I look at food. At least, that’s how I feel right now.

Food is very important to me. I’m one of those “foodies” you may have heard about. So’s my wife. We are really into food. We love trying great restaurants and we cook more than anyone I know. And my wife bakes. A lot. It’s pretty cool. I really need to get to the gym. Anyway, I love food, but I’m also not a snob about it. I have a real soft spot for he comfort foods of my youth (since I grew up in Queens, feel free to read “youth” pronounced ad “yewt”). Therefore, I freely confess to the occasional Big Mac attack.

The book is compelling for many reasons. First, it serves up a fascinating history lesson as Schlosser introduces the founders of the fast food industry. Men like Carl N. Karcher, Dave Thomas and the McDonalds brothers, whose stories are as American as a hot, fried apple pie. These pioneers were almost all men with little education, who started with nothing but some innovative ideas and the drive to make their dreams come true. The story turns darker as their little companies become huge corporate entities that utterly changed way food is grown, collected, sold, distributed, marketed, prepared and eaten. These changes were made possible because through a combination of technological advances, the culture of the automobile and the creation of a national highway system, corporate and political corruption at all levels, the exploitation of workers, and a great big dose of greed.

The results that Fast Food Nation suggests are no less than the “mall-ization” of the American landscape as the business practices of the fast food industry were mimicked by other retail suppliers and abominable conditions in the meat-producing industries that must lead to the spread of disease. I swear again, I don’t believe that I’ll be able to look at fast food the same way again. Or any processed food, really. I’m seriously considering buying a meat-grinder for my home. I want to make my own sausage like they do in the Old Country—ammàzza!!!

But what really warms my heart is the knowledge that all of this is currently being exported to the world at large. Will there even be an “Old Country” fifty years from now? Will it really be one big McPlanet? How can we turn back the clock and go back to eating “real” food. Without spending an ungodly fortune at Whole Foods, at any rate?

Dude, it’s a good book. Read it, already. If you can’t be bothered to educate yourself, what can I say? Have it your way. (heh heh) I’m going to try and finish it this week.

And, speaking of delicious tasty treats, you ought to check out Marie’s blog entry for today.

Bon appetit!


Marie said...

The thing that shocked me in "Fast Food Nation" was that all kinds of trashy junk foods are available in schools. We didn't have junk food until high school when I was a kid, and I had no idea that kids could get all this crap. No wonder we have a child obesity problem.

I am still kind of creeped out by that scene where the guy in New Jersey is making the "tastes" that go in common brand-name foods. Ew!

Don Hudson said...

I own 'Super Size me' and I lend it to anyone who even mentions fast food. I enjoy making my own meals and when I go out for dinner, I usually choose Sushi or other ethnic foods. Healthy Greek or Indian foods. I look forward to the Fast Food Nation Movie!

Steve Buccellato said...

Actually, it's funny you should mention that. I didn't know that there was going to be a Fast Food Nation movie until earlier this morning! I was web-surfing to see if Eric Schlosser had a website, and I discovered a trailer for the upcoming film directed by Richard Linklater and written by Schlosser. It seems like he's turned the subject of his book into some kind of thriller that premiered in Cannes. I'm quite interested, as you might guess!

Marie said...


The torture never ends. ;-)

(If you know me, you know what I'm squalling at.)

Steve Buccellato said...

Marie, you can run, but you can't hide.