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Fast Food Nation: 08/15/06

Fast Food Nation

So many of my BookCrossing friends had read and raved about this close up look at the American fast food industry that I felt it was time to read it myself. I've actually had this copy for around a year, having gotten it as a RABCK from another local BookCrosser.

I wasn't sure what to expect of the book having heard many reviewers say that they would never eat fast food again. While much of the book focuses on McDonald's, a chain I haven't eaten in for nearly twenty years (except twice when it was the only option), I figured a lot of the book would be covering information that neither surprised nor horrified me. While McDonald's is mentioned often, it's mostly in relation to the Speedee Service System which brought the assembly line into the restaurant industry (if one can can call McDonald's a restaurant).

Here is my BookCrossing review:

Fast Food Nation is an interesting cross between history, essay and social realism. It starts as a straight forward history of the major players in the early years of the fast food industry: Carl Karcher, the McDonald Brothers, et al. Starting with Chapter 5: "Why the Fries Taste Good" the book begins its hard look at the industry as it was in the late 1990s. The inclusion of "beef flavor" in the McDonald's fries has had a backlash against the company since the publication of the book and in the appendix, Schlosser covers some of that. The two most hard-hitting chapters are chapters 8 and 9: "The Most Dangerous Job" and "What's in the Meat" where Schlosser looks at what has become of the meat packing industry since the time that Sinclair wrote The Jungle (a novel I highly recommend to anyone who hasn't read it). Don't stop reading at the close of Chapter 10. The book doesn't really close until the Epilogue and Afterword.

The most common response I've heard from readers of Fast Food Nation is a combination of shock and repulsion. Coming to this book knowing quite a bit about how the industry works (or doesn't), I didn't find myself either shocked or repulsed. I did however find myself saddened at the chapter on food contamination ("What's in the Meat") at the deaths of those children.

As a parent of a 4 year old (and soon to be born infant), I have been keeping my son away from most fast food. He's never had a hamburger, doesn't especially like french fries and hates soda. As Schlosser states near the close of the book, the fast food industry isn't evil; it's a business. Change will come more quickly when consumer demands it. Yes, advertising is aimed at children but parents still can control what their children see and eat.

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