I’ve never been one for McDonald’s. Their burgers pretty much taste like an old shoe had a bad day, although it has been about fifteen years since I have eaten one and maybe they have improved in the meantime. In an emergency, I have been known to suck down a fast-food milkshake, but they always taste more like chemicals than actual ice cream to me. I went through a brief period in my early twenties when I had a thing for Burger King fries doused in salt. Pretty soon that started to gross me out and I resisted the urge to turn my car into the drive-through lane on the way home from teaching.
About fifteen months ago, I had a shake and fries from McDonald’s. Before that? It had been at least half a decade since I had eaten anything from a Mickey D’s or a Booger King, as my fast food has been more or less limited to Subway. I don’t drink soda, I don’t chew gum, and I don’t particularly like packaged dinners.
I do, however, adore buttered popcorn. I tell you this lest you think I am perfect. Because I know you are all in danger of jumping to that conclusion.
My aversion to these dens of ill-repute got quite a boost this past month, when I read Fast Food Nation. The premise of the book is more or less that people eat a lot of really gross stuff without even knowing it.
For example, most of the processed foods we eat are designed in a laboratory that precisely manufactures tastes and smells to simulate actual food. Then they inject that crap into the caloric packages they sell us, and our tongues and noses are too stupid to realize they have been duped. So, when we think we’re smelling or eating, say, buttered popcorn, we’re really just being bamboozled into believing we are eating buttered popcorn.
I cannot even look at a tub of movie theater popcorn anymore. The breakup has been too painful.
The most disgusting chapter is the one on ground beef. The whole chapter is pretty appalling, from the working conditions of the employees to the health risks of eating that stuff. The most shocking line award goes to the explanation for e-coli breakouts: “There’s shit in the meat.”
Makes me want to run the two blocks to Mickey D’s right now.
Suffice it to say, this book wins for shock value, but it is also very well-researched and clearly written. Just watch out or it’ll turn you into a vegetarian. One who doesn’t eat French fries.