I finished Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser on Friday night, and I immediately began thinking about my review. I knew that I couldn't praise it high enough; the engaging writing style, the important information, the humane objectivity to be found in this book is, quite simply, amazing. This book shows why non-fiction is so important. It raises essential issues, deftly introduces the evidence, and allows the reader to evaluate everything in bright light. How, then, to review it? I suddenly realised that this book needs more than a review: it needs an audience. The topics discussed in this book are very important to me (and it was even more fun to read about Colorado Springs, as a newcomer to the town!), so I've decided to follow Dewey's model. She discusses a non-fiction book chapter-by-chapter, providing notes and her personal reaction (currently, she's working through Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters by Courtney Martin).
I've decided to make Tuesdays my Fast Food Nation day; the book has ten chapters, an introduction, an epilogue, and an afterword, so this feature will go into December. I'm hoping to make the posts a center for thoughtful discussion about the issue, but if that doesn't happen at least I know I'm getting the word out. :) And with that, I'll be discussing the Introduction this week.
+The workers of the top-secret Air Force base Cheyenne Mountain have Domino's delivered.
+"In 1970, Americans spent about $6 billion on fast food; in 2001, they spent more than $110 billion. Americans now spend more on fast food than on higher education, personal computers, computer software, or new cars. They spend more on fast food than on movies, books, magazines, newspapers, videos, and recorded music-combined." (3)
+"On any given day in the United States about one-quarter of the adult population visits a fast-food restaurant." (3)
+"Adjusted for inflation, the hourly wage for the average U.S. worker peaked in 1973 and then steadily declined for the next twenty-five years." (4)
+"An estimated one out of every eight workers in the United States has at some point been employed by McDonald's. The company annually hires about one million people, more than any other American organization, public or private. McDonald's is the nation's largest purchaser of beef, pork, and potatoes-and the second largest purchaser of chicken. The McDonald's Corporation is the largest owner of retail property in the world." (4)
+"The typical American now consumes approximately three hamburgers and four orders of french fries every week." (6)
+"The current methods for preparing fast food are less likely to be found in cookbooks than in trade journals such as Food Technologist and Food Engineering. Aside from salad greens and tomatoes, most fast food is delivered to the restaurant already frozen, canned, dehydrated, or freeze-dried." (6-7)
+"I do not mean to suggest that fast food is solely responsible for every social problem now haunting the United States. In some cases (such as the malling and sprawling of the West), the fast food industry has been a catalyst and a symptom of larger economic trends. In other cases (such as the rise of franchising and the psread of obesity) fast food as played a more central role. By tracing the diverse influences of fast food I hope to shed light not only on the workings of an important industry, but also on a distinctively American way of viewing the world." (9)
+"Fast food is heavily marketed to children and prepared by people who are barely older than children. This is an industry that both feeds and feeds off the young." (9)
+"During the two years I spend researching this book, I ate an enormous amount of fast food. Most of it tasted pretty food. That is one of the main reasons people buy fast food; it has been carefully designed to taste food. It's also inexpensive and convenient. But the value meals, two-for-one deals, and free refills of soda hive a distorted sense of how much fast food actually costs. The real price never appears on the menu." (9)
+"Hundreds of millions of people buy fast food every day without giving it much thought, unaware of the subtle and not-so-subtle ramifications of their purchases. They rarely consider where the food came from, how it was made, what it is doing to the community around them. They just grab their tray off the counter, find a table, take a seat, unwrap the paper, and dig in. The whole experience is transitory and soon forgotten. I've written this book out of a belief that people should know what lies behind the shiny, happy surface of every fast food transaction." (10)
I was surprised at the opening, a description of Cheyenne Mountain Air Force base. I'm actually going on a tour of that soon! But I quickly became more serious. For me, the most striking points Schlosser brought up were the sheer popularity of fast food and its appeal to children. The size of McDonald's was pretty staggering as well! When we were little, my sister and I played soccer. My dad coached my sister's team, and they needed funding. So, in return for money, her team was named the Mickey Dee's. At the time, it seemed pretty harmless. My favourite two passages are the last two quotes I listed. I like that Schlosser doesn't try to pretend; he freely admits that fast food tastes good. I personally don't like a lot of fast food, but I love Wendy's Spicy Chicken sandwiches. Oh-I should probably give a brief background of my own eating history, so that y'all know where I'm coming from. I became a vegetarian at 16, and at 19 I took an eight-month hiatus. Two of those months were spent in the States, getting my system readjusted to meat, and then I went to Russia (I stayed with families, in a very non-vegetarian friendly culture, hence why I started eating meat). On getting back in December (of 2005), I became a veggie again cold-turkey. Then, in April of this year I started eating meat again in preparation for the Peace Corps. I'm probably going to West Africa, and it would be culturally difficult for me to be a veggie there. So, I'm currently a reluctant meat-eater. My dad hunts once a year, so we always have elk in our freezer. In fact, he's getting back tomorrow with this year's meat. Thus, most of the red meat I eat tends to be game. In restaurants, I tend to default to the vegetarian stuff (I love tofu! and bean burgers!), but sometimes I'll eat chicken. We don't eat out all that often, but we tend to go to chains like Chili's and Olive Garden. As far as fast food, sometimes I'll go to Wendy's (and get a Spicy Chicken sandwich) and more frequently I'll go to La Casita (a four-restaurant Mexican chain in Colorado Springs), where I get two or three bean and cheese tacos. I probably go to La Casita once a week, Wendy's every two or three months, and out to eat at other restaurants twice a month. Whew-ok that wasn't so brief. But I thought it was important for y'all to know where I was coming from! That's probably enough for this week. :)