Fast Food Nation

When I was a kid, our family vacations to our country’s capital was a feast for the senses. Having come from a less developed city, we would arrive in Manila all excited to eat at many of the food joints that were not yet available in our hometown. I remember countless meals at McDonald’s and Wendy’s, and ice cream cones at Dairy Queen, and especially the thrill of ordering pizza over the phone. (Yes, there were options for food delivery before Grab Food and Food Panda!)

I guess you could say I grew up just as fast food was starting to flourish in our country, and especially in our city. Before long we had all these chains available, so that trips to other cities and countries slowly merged into one global experience. Sure, we probably wouldn’t want to eat at McDonald’s when visiting another country, but it was something familiar on the streets of Taiwan, Anaheim, or Kuala Lumpur.

I’m not attempting another journalistic look at how fast food places have burgeoned across the globe. But reading the book Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser did remind me of all my early experiences with fast food—perhaps as one of the last generations that did not wholly depend on them for daily meals!

Processed food may not contain the actual food it claims to be, and is instead only flavoured to taste (and feel!) like it!
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Key Notes from Fast Food Nation

Fast Food Nation isn’t a self-help book. If anything, it’s a journalist’s look at how our entire lives have been upended by the fast food revolution. But at the same time, for me, it’s a timely reminder of being more intentional with the food that we eat as parents and also that we feed our kids!

Here are some of the major highlights:

1. There is such a thing as a flavour industry!

This was a mind-blowing idea for me: that the flavour industry is responsible for making processed food taste like they should. Although we’ve been relatively intentional about choosing whole foods, I once thought that processed food is bad just because of preservatives. But in this book, I learned that a lot of the time, processed food may not contain the actual food it claims to be, and is instead only flavoured to taste (and feel!) like it!

2. Fast food chains impact employment.

Granted, they offer lots of employment opportunities, but the book unveils both the good and the bad sides of the way they’re run. Sadly, not all of them treat their employees right.

3. The fast food industry reshaped agriculture.

In a chapter devoted solely to French fries, the book tackles even the way that the fast food industry reshaped how farmers work. With the skyrocketing demand for potatoes, lots of farmers shifted their crops, to the detriment of soil health and overall ecology.

4. The fast food culture invades schools, too.

This was one of the saddest things I learned from this book: that because of the need for funds, many public schools allow fast food chains to advertise (or even set up kiosks) within school campuses. Talk about a captive audience. You can imagine what kind of eating habits unsupervised kids would grow up having, with all the fried processed food within reach everyday.

Being Intentional with Food

All in all, I think the book inspired me to be more intentional with our meal preparations at home. Yes, it’s easiest to swing by a fast food joint and grab some burgers and fries, but in the long run, they may not be the healthiest options for our families.

To read more about this, purchase the book here.

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