Editor’s Note: This post originally appeared September 8, 2011.
There’s been a lot of writing about food lately. Three-hundred-page love letters on the glories of sun-dried tomatoes and porcini this and pine nut that. You wouldn’t think anyone could make Italy boring except for Henry James and Thomas Mann, but now they’ve got competition. Of the twenty or so food books I read before starting my own, I discovered they were not unlike erotica: an overblown significance attached to something actually so prosaic it’s laughable. I’m guessing the popularity of food books stems in part from us becoming such a fat country. However, except for muckraking exposés and an article in Consumer Reports every two or three years, little has been written about fast food. I think that’s snobbish and needs to be remedied.
Before I go further, I should say that all the bad things that have been said about fast food are true. It’s full of fat and sugar and flavorings, and, passing health department ratings aside, a typical fast food kitchen is less hygienic than your own bathroom at home. And, as we all know, the typical franchise is staffed by teenagers: just how often do you meet one of those (God love them) that you’d trust with anything that mattered much? Such as what’s in the hidden part of your burrito.
Okay, so what are the glories of fast food? What is there to write about? Is there really a difference between a Wendy’s Single and a Quarter Pounder?