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Fast Food Nation
cookbook reviewsfast food nation

Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal
By Eric Schlosser,
Published in 2001
by Houghton-Mifflin, New York.

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In a world that could, given enough time and publicity, have an impact similar to Upton Sinclair's The Jungle, Atlantic Monthly's correspondent Eric Schlosser has written a well-researched exposť of an American business marvel - fast food.

Schlosser finds the roots of this post-war phenomenon in such unusual coincidences as the fact that McDonald's founder Ray Kroc served in the same WWI ambulance corps as Walt Disney. From there he traces the impact fast food has had on the world, its economy, its people and its cultures. Fast food has led to what he calls the "malling of America." It is an industry that, while founded by big business outsiders, has led to a standardization of taste that is reaching around the globe.

It even led to this bizarre and ironic spectacle: after noting that the ancient Romans once paraded the kings of conquered nations through the streets of Rome to the Circus, Schlosser takes us to a fast food franchiser's convention in Las Vegas in 1999. The keynote speaker? "Mikhail Gorbachev (former President of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, winner of the Orders of Lenin, the Red Banner of Labor, and the Nobel Peace Prize) was at the Grand Ballroom of the Mirage, giving the keynote speech before a fast food convention."

The book shows how the McDonald's corporation came to control the beef industry (by being it's largest customer) while this fast food giant makes more of its money from being the world's largest holder of commercial real estate than it does from selling food. One statement from McDonald's got testing equipment for the deadly food-borne pathogen e coli 0157-h7 into almost every major meatpacking house in America. Yet since McDonald's has shown comparatively little regard for the workers in those plants, meatpacking remains one of the most dangerous jobs in the country. 1 in 3 workers is injured to a point beyond mere first aid every year. We learn the story of Kenny Dobbins, of Keokuk, Iowa, who was worked very nearly to death by the meatpacking industry. There are stories of actual deaths, too, of drowning in chemical vats and being shot during late-night hold-ups at burger joints.

Though he never mentions it by name, Schlosser has written a 270 page rock-solid argument for the need for the Slow Food Movement. Fast Food Nation may just startle and anger enough people to make a real difference in the world.


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