Fast food is an American way of life. We jam gigantic globules of fat down our pie holes and chase them with a hot tub-size cup of high-fructose corn syrup. And for dessert, there’s always a 50-cent apple pie the size of Wisconsin. But all that gluttony has blinded us to the true meaning of today’s fast food.
It’s almost never fast and one could make an argument it isn’t really food either.
But as a person who remembers life before the McDonalds arches morphed into a sort of wimpy, lazy “m” and the sign said “thousands sold” I can tell you it used to be different.
Will That Be ‘Regular’ or ‘DeLux?’ Hon?
Fast food used to come from places like Pop’s Drive-In. You sat at a cramped counter and ordered up your ‘burg – regular or De-Lux, no more no less. It arrived in about the same time it now takes a half-hour old burger to go down an assembly line that would’ve given Henry Ford a hard-on, into a bag, and somehow magically turn into a McRib as soon as you leave the drive-thru and check your greasy bag.
And it was good. The beef was fresh. The fries were unsalted because – revolutionary idea – they had condiments on the counter. Frank the Fry Cook might have been a rough ex-Marine chow cook and Betty the waitress might have been a cigarette smoking harpy, but between them they managed a piece of apple pie that was better than Mom’s and came ala mode for a few cents extra.
The first of the “modern” fast food joints were much the same except they forced patrons to eat in their dusty cars, piled high with Dixie Cups and hamburger detritus from previous visits. No worries. Mom and Dad scooped the garbage out when they stopped to empty their overflowing ashtrays onto the roadside.
That’s right, the big technological edge for those pioneering hamburger joints – that’s what people called them before they became multinationals – was foisting the busing of tables off onto customers.
Then came the dreaded drive-thru. People didn’t even have to get their lazy asses out of the car and the lazy hamburglers didn’t have to roller-skate over to take the orders. Who knew this would beget multi-lane drive-thrus bigger than some Oklahoma freeways?
Suddenly one day they inexplicably started to add back so many items menus became as big as Las Vegas billboards with all the glitzy, awe-inspiring, unfathomable glory intact. It made me envy the blind, who can just feel some unadorned braille dots pasted to the counter and make a simple order.
Even Al Capone Got a Moveable Chair
They’ve even let us back inside. You can come in and sit in a prison- made bucket seat bolted to the floor for your protection and their convenience. You can even send the kids away to an indoor Disneyland, but you can’t enjoy the peace and quiet because the roller coasters and screaming kids are way too loud.
But now there’s word we’re entering a new fast food epoch. McDonalds is going to redesign their restaurants. Nearly 30,000 of them will be converted into hip new hangouts with cool hanging lights, funky graphics, and photos on the walls. There’ll be wi-fi access and premium coffee too.
It seems we’ve come full circle from Pop’s Diner, to proto-drive-in, to a squishy entity that’s neither drive-in nor sit-down restaurant – a place that’s scientifically engineered to squeeze every drop of pleasure from the dining experience and be really unhealthy to boot. Now we’ll sit in a faux den drinking $10 a cup coffee made from beans sent through the digestive tract of a civet and playing video games via wi-fi.
Sigh. I guess that’s progress.
- I Was Drawn In by the USA Today Headline (slog.thestranger.com)
- Fast Food Salads–Best, Worst Salad at McDonalds, Wendys, BK, KFC (food-facts.suite101.com)
- Utah judge finds teen not McGuilty of fast-food rap (thestar.com)
- Burger To Go: Worker Gets Chop Over Cheese (news.sky.com)
- 10 Most Hilarious Abuses of the McDonalds Logo (businesspundit.com)
- Work Culture at McDonalds (slideshare.net)
- McDonald’s Chef: The Most Influential Cook in America? (time.com)
- McDonald’s: Epic Happy Meal Fail (grub.gunaxin.com)