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Fast Food Versus Slow Food: Are You Dancing As Fast As You Can?
by Marjorie Dorfman

What is the attraction to fast food and why is it a fatal one as far as our figures and physiques go? Read on to discover its secret appeal and have a laugh (not fattening) as well.

"We were taken to a fast food café where our order was fed into a computer. Our hamburgers, made from the flesh of chemically impregnated cattle, had been broiled over counterfeit charcoal, placed between slices of artificially flavored cardboard and served to us by recycled juvenile delinquents." . . . Jean-Michel Chapereau

Everything today is fast. People think fast, speak fast, walk fast, write fast and eat fast. The speed of communication is rapid and getting more so with every breath that we take. (That is, if we have time to take a breath in between rushing everywhere in the world.) Do you remember the days when "fast" referred to what two teenagers did in the back seat of a Chevrolet convertible? It certainly doesn’t mean that today. I always feel like I am a step or two behind everyone else, even though I am dancing as fast as I possibly can. If you feel the same way, then hang on tightly to your hat and hold the pickle and the lettuce as we swirl the light fantastic into the phenomenal world of fast food.

Fast food has become such an integral part of the busy American lifestyle that there are more than 300,000 restaurants offering it throughout the United States today. It’s convenient, predictable and, surprise, fast. It is also very high in calories and nutrition experts stress the need to fit fast food into a balanced healthy diet. I will not mention any names in my irreverent and uncalled for study. I have no need to protect the innocent, arrest the guilty or spit at the indifferent. I sincerely feel that they all fall into the same category and that no one name is any worse or better than any other one. As such, they are all worthy of my opinion, even if they don’t think so and didn’t ask me for it in the first place.

It is probably the worst thing for out digestive systems to eat fast and yet we all do it, myself included. Dr. Depchak Chopra once said that we should never eat a meal with people we don’t like because of the toxic effect of enzymes upon our body chemistry. In the case of fast food, the person we don’t like is in all probability ourselves, as when we are indulging in it there is little time for anyone or anything else. It is a mode of operation that when set into gear cannot be reversed until the meal is over, (and sometimes not even then.)

My experiences with fast food have found both the managerial and the wait staff indifferent to the needs of customers. I can understand how their involvement is at a minimum, especially since their salaries are, but manners should be a part of everyone’s daily routine, no matter how little they are being paid. These workers seem to be looking for something lost on the floor whenever I place my order. Talk about the whites of their eyes! I never see them! One of the worst stories I ever heard has to do with an incident that happened somewhere in Canada, about two years ago. A gentleman ordered a cheeseburger and found a piece of wood inside, fortunately before he swallowed it. He reported it to the manager who claimed he didn’t know where the burger came from, but offered to exchange it for another one, just in case he was telling the truth and really did purchase it where he said he did. The young man declined. He called the food inspectors and reported them and then requested information on how to open up his own fast food franchise!

Have you ever watched people eat fast food? Well, I have and let me tell you it is quite revealing. It’s like observing robots bobbing their heads up and down, again and again, until the decomposing, fattening special of the day is no longer upon their plates of plastic. There seems to be no thought of calories or nutrition or even, from what I have observed, conversation. (Of course, I am not counting mothers reprimanding children and husbands for spilling soda upon their polyester outfits!) If I sound bitter, I am. I am also mad at myself that fast food is in my life whether I want it to be or not (kind of like a remorseful ex-spouse who keeps hanging around). My life is as hectic as everyone else’s and with time at a premium, every now and then fast food looks, if not good, then at the very least, convenient.

Convenience is the key word here. After all, who goes out for a candle-lit dinner complemented by the finest French wine and spends a fortune on the meal because it is convenient? We have all lost track of the joy of dining, even if we are alone. (Perhaps the comfort of swallowing as well). I love to go out to eat; it’s one of my favorite things to do with family and friends. I also enjoy cooking and can appreciate a home-cooked meal just as easily as the next person. We are a generation lost somewhere in the space of translation between fast versus slow food.

Apart from the rush of it all, have you ever thought about exactly what it is that you are consuming? Where do those lumpy, odd-looking hamburgers really come from? Sometimes I would swear the meat is almost moving on my plate and the cheese and onions are there to smother its cries for help. Perhaps they are also accomplices in transporting whatever might have lost at the racetrack yesterday? As a horse lover, I certainly hope not, but who can say for sure? Still, I can’t help but wonder why everything on the plate looks as if it is struggling to give me some sort of message. Maybe that’s why in fast food places most people don’t even look at their food. They read the paper, look out the window or watch the ketchup and mustard congeal on the plates of the people sitting next to them.

I try my best not to concentrate on other things while indulging in fast foods, but I can’t help it. Sometimes I think about the fact that my caloric intake for this meal alone, whatever it is, will far exceed my weekly and perhaps even monthly allotment. I try to swallow quickly in the hopes that out of sight will soon be out of mind and off the thighs, but I know better. In fact, there should be a way to invent something that will put this food directly onto our thighs. Might as well. That’s where it’s going anyway, give or take a few stops along the way! I am happy to see that some fast food places have responded to the consumer’s need to be more health conscious. Here I will mention some names. Arby’s Light Roast Chicken Sandwich has 276 calories and only 7 grams of fat, Burger King’s Chunky Chicken Salad has 142 calories and boasts 4 grams of fat. MacDonald’s Vanilla Shake is right up there with them, with 310 calories and 5 grams of fat. Last but not least, is Wendy’s Chili. It claims 210 calories and 7 grams of fat.

Wherever it goes and wherever it’s been, fast food is here to stay. Yes, my friends, the Rockies may crumble and Gibraltar may tumble, but Whoppers, Big Macs, Pizza, Taco Belles and Fried Chicken have become permanently ingrained in the American food psyche. I guess we will all have to learn to live with them in a kind of fattening, poly-unsaturated brotherhood. If this means ignoring the food sometimes, then so be it. More likely, however, it means we will eat these foods sometimes too. So when in Rome, do as The Romans do. (After all, togas are not form fitting, you know.) Consider that even if we do have more than one life to live, how many more of them can be as fattening as this one? So as the old song says, "live, love, laugh and be happy." But just remember every time you see someone else buy one of those lumpy burgers that there but for the grace of carbohydrates go us all. Here’s to a size 10, unless you want to be a size 8, and to size 20 or even 30, as long as you are happy with the fast food truth that talks back to us all in the mirror.

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Copyright 2004