Friday, October 13, 2006

What a Kroc!!

Fast Food Nation
Eric Schlosser

I love when restaurants, or to use a more appropriate term, eateries, name themselves after their menu. Places like Cold Beer and Cheeseburgers, or BW3 back before they, like my alma mater, caved and just started calling the place what everyone else called it, and it was still Buffalo Wild Wings. It's great because you never have to wonder what they have, or what their signature menu item is. I was certain that I had heard the person wrong the first time I heard Fuddruckers, and it was months later before I found out they had burgers. (Years after that, I actually went to one and discovered they were also extremely pricey burgers) However, no matter how entertaining it may be, it's not always a good idea. Two days ago I noticed a Fatburger on my way back from work. It did not entice me to place an order.

Neither will this book.

I was actually encouraged to read it with the warning, "You'll never eat fast food again," but because I usually don't eat it anyway (Chipotle totally doesn't count), I didn't consider this much of a threat.

They were wrong. It made me seriously reconsider eating at all.

Schlosser starts by describing the history and rise of fast food as an industry. He describes how the businesses operate at both a corporate and franchise level, and the interaction between the two. Intimate details of the meatpacking industry are revealed in what may be my favorite chapter, What's in the meat (Direct quote: "There is shit in the meat." That's not Schlosser. That's one of his interviews.), and the secrets behind artificial and "natural" flavors are unearthed. In true liberal avenger form, he even shows us the deplorable working conditions for the fast food and meatpacking workers. This is where I point out that although I agree that the workers need better conditions, I in no way support his view that everybody should union up, but that's just my view.

McDonalds is an obvious target throughout, if only because they still abide by Ray Kroc's corporate philosophy. This is a man who once said of his business rivals, "If they were drowning to death, I would put a hose in their mouth." Schlosser attacks from all sides, and I can't say I blame him. I stopped eating there when I discovered that not only was the toy the best part, but it usually wasn't any good.

I had two other favorite quotes I'd like to share, and I won't even mention the CWRU professor who's cited in the afterword. First, from What's in the meat:

"A series of tests conducted by Charles Gerba, a microbiologist at the University of Arizona, discovered far more fecal bacteria in the average American kitchen sink than on the average American toilet seat. According to Gerba, 'You'd be better off eating a carrot stick that fell in your toilet than one that fell in your sink.'"

I have a small issue with this, because if you're getting fecal matter on the seat, then you were clearly not properly instructed in how to operate a toilet. But it still says a lot about how dirty the meat is when it gets to your home.

Finally, the line I almost used to open this post:

"Plauen has become a battlefield for these competing ideologies, with their proudly displayed and archetypal symbols: the swastika, the hammer and sickle, the golden arches."

That line summarizes the entire book, from the global reach of the industry--making us not a fast food nation, but a fast food planet--to Schlosser's obvious view that McDonald's is just another evil empire.

I agree with this assertion, but I have for a long time. That's the problem. The only people who are going to read this book unless it is forced upon them are the ones who don't need convincing.

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posted by reyn at 6:46 AM


Blogger ~e said...

(does this count as a diet book?)

i think you're probably right about who will read this book, with the minor exception that there are some local high schools who make it part of their summer reading list.

I definately want to read it and then see the movie. However, it doesn't sound like a fun vacation book, so it may be awhile.

and now when i get to work i have to look up that professor...

10/13/2006 10:36 AM  
Blogger Elizabeth said...

For some reason I've never gotten around to reading this one, although I've meant to for awhile. You see, I like fast food sometimes even though I know it's bad for me, and I hope this book would frighten me away for life. But, then again, I speng a summer doing litigation work for clients suing a corporate hog farm, and THAT was so disgusting that I thought I'd never eat processed ham again. That resolution lasted for a few months, but I eventually caved. But maybe a book like this will make me a firm organic meat girl.

By the way, here's a fun link from my hog farm days : ) The Meatrix

10/13/2006 10:15 PM  
Blogger Kat said...

I haven't read this book, and most likely won't. However, I did watch Super Size Me - that was pretty gross, but I still eat fast food occasionally (although I do avoid McDonalds whenever possible - did that before watching Super Size Me though). I'll have to see Fast Food Nation, maybe that will turn me off for good.

10/17/2006 2:44 PM  

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