Sunday, January 14, 2007

Shitburger w/ Large Lies, Part 1

As a kid, I loved McDonald's. I can't tell you how many times I went there. I grew up on it. My parents were divorced, so it was my connection to my dad, who on Sundays took us there during our visits.

We never had illusions that it was any good for us. My dad had read Bic Mac: the Unauthorized Story of McDonald's when it came out in the 1970s. So he knew it wasn't a healthy supper. My aunt always teased us that those white buns gave you butt cancer. I didn't really know what that meant at the time, but the word "butt" made me giggle.

None of that really mattered, however. The poor nutritional value of the meal was completely eclipsed by desire and expediency. It tasted so good! Salt, fat and sugar in spades. A McDonald's meal satisfied primal cravings. It was otherworldly; an instant meal to fill us up and make us happy.

My first introduction to food politics came when I was a teenager. A friend pointed out that Burger King used meat from Hormel, which had notoriously broken the Austin, Minnesota meatpacking union strike. He had relatives who were meatpackers, so I showed solidarity by avoiding the Whopper. We simply proceeded to eat every other kind of fast food we could get our hands on.

Time went on. Eating at McDonald's, though still ok, became rare, as I had grown into a fairly health-conscious person. But all that went out the window when I had kids. Once again I found myself seduced by the cheap, quick, and convenient "all-American meal." My wife became obsessed with collecting the toys that came with the Happy Meals. My kids loved the treat.

It wasn't a regular thing. We tried to instill good eating habits in our kids. But McDonald's was an acceptable bit of junk food: good for a night I didn't feel like cooking, a safe stop that everyone could agree upon while traveling, an easy place to grab a quick meal and a collectible nicknack. How bad could it be?

All of this is backstory to my inevitable encounter with Fast Food Nation. I saw the film last Thanksgiving, then I finally started the book over Christmas. I just finished it today.


ladieslovetk said...

Dude. When I was little my fambly had a coin-operated laundromat in South East Washington D.C. Within a one mile radius, there were exactly two places where you could buy prepared food. One was McDonald's. The other was KFC. No grocery store, no nothing. Plenty of liquor stores though. This was the ghetto remember. Not a problem if you wanted to gorge on Big Mac's and wash it all back with Thunderbird.

Knight of Nothing said...

That's awesome. When we were kids there wasn't even Happy Meals. We would have been too hungry for that tiny meal anyway. I needed 3-4 cheesburgers alone. So we'd go to the McDonald's in Uptown and order like twelve cheeseburgers between the four of us. The cashiers had to press the cheeseburger button on the register once for each burger. High tech!