I have a thing for books about food, not cookbooks, but books about where food comes from, what’s in it, how to grow it, how to make it, what it does to your body, and so on. I enjoy learning about all of that. You should know about all of that; I’m not saying you have to enjoy it, but you should know about it.
This book is by Eric Schlosser, who also wrote Fast Food Nation; I’m going to be hitting that one soon. Both books are about how fast food has changed our nation, but they’re also about the history of fast food, which is interesting, believe it or not. Food used to be a very slow thing. If you wanted biscuits and gravy, you made those darn biscuits and that darn gravy from scratch. There weren’t cans of biscuits you could pop open and put in the oven. There wasn’t pre-made gravy mix that was just-add-water.
Fast food really became a thing when people started creating hotdogs and hamburgers. Hamburgers were created for a fair. People liked them, so the man who created them kept going with it. This was over a hundred years ago by the way. It wasn’t until much later that the McDonalds opened their restaurant, which wasn’t exactly the first of its kind, but eventually came to be.
There had been other hamburger restaurants before McDonald’s, a lot of them, but people used to bring the food to your car. You sat in the parking lot and you ate your food. McDonald’s was really the first restaurant that made you come inside, order your food, take it to a table, and then clean up your own trash. McDonald’s was also one of the first places that allowed for an assembly line approach to making food. You’ll see this today if you go to any fast-food restaurant and peer into the kitchen. Ray Kroc was the man who came up with McDonald’s franchising and uniformity.
The uniformity is the killer here. That uniformity drove McDonald’s to only buy one type of potato, to only buy meat from one place, and to only expect one particular flavor of chicken. McDonald’s fries tasting the same anywhere isn’t exactly a bad thing, but it’s a bad thing when it forces many potato farmers out of business. McDonald’s only wanted one particular type of potato, so other potatoes began to be seen less and less. Singular companies began to get huge off the business from McDonald’s, which didn’t buy from the cheapest place, keeping a competitive market open, they bought from the most uniform place. This one place was able to buy up more this and more that and eventually become the biggest, but it wasn’t only with potatoes.
Beef is a big business to McDonald’s as well. They wanted all the hamburgers to taste the same, so all the beef had to be the same type and fed the same way. This fueled the rise of large feedlots in the United States. McDonald’s is the biggest buyer of beef in the country. As you may or may not know, cows aren’t supposed to eat corn, or other cows for that matter, but both have happened at feed lots. For the most part feeding cows to other cows has been nixed, but cows still chow down on corn, which is not good for them. The slaughterhouses aren’t the nicest places either, you wouldn’t really expect a slaughterhouse to be a nice place, but the United States falls way behind other countries. Europe uses a mainly humane was of killing their food animals, but gassing them, but here in the United States, we still stun our animals and hope they’re dead; they’re not always dead.
This book makes no mention of Temple Grandin. Because of Temple our slaughterhouses have gotten more humane over the past twenty years or so, but they’re still a long ways behind other countries.
Fast food has infiltrated our schools and hospitals. Students are overweight. Schools have had to fight to get fast food out. Fast food fights to get into war-torn areas. Burger King was one of the first American business in Kuwait after war broke out there. Nothing says Justice like a Whopper.
What I liked
There is a lot of this information I am already familiar with. There was some that was new though. I think the history of fast food restaurants is neat. These were people who did think outside the box to create these new businesses. They brought cheaper food out to the masses. If it wasn’t for fast food, there would be a lot of people who never get to eat out. I mean we all like higher-priced restaurants like Romano’s Macaroni Grill, but not everyone can afford meals that are $14 a piece, or higher. I have to hand it to the fast food industry for providing a night out for people with less money, but the stuff is still gross.
I think this book was pointed more towards young adults. I have started reading Fast Food Nation and it’s so much more complex than this book, but by the same author. This is a book a teenager could read and could understand quite well. I have to hand to Eric and Charles for creating something that teenagers might actually enjoy reading.
What I didn’t like
This book doesn’t get into the nitty-gritty of fast food. This book only involves battles that surround fast food. It’s more of a summary of what fast food has touched over the years. This book isn’t about what actually goes into your fast food. How about those flame retardants? How about radiating meat? How about some more details about how cows were eating cows? How about even more details about that? Cows eating cows is outlawed, but cows eating chicken protein isn’t really outlawed.
This book is more of a gateway book. It could pull you into the world of learning what goes into your food, but it’s not the hard stuff. It’s not the information you’re really going to want to know about what is going into your food. This book is the book where you decide to go further down the rabbit hole or you decide to step away and live happily with your ignorance.
I think this is a good book to get teenagers, and anyone else for that matter, thinking about their food.
charles wilson, chew on this, chew on this by eric schlosser and charles wilson, chicken, eric schlosser, fast food, french fries, history of mcdonald’s, mcdonald’s, potatoes
Health, History, Non-Fiction, ponder provoking, Schlosser-Eric, social commentary, Wilson-Charles