I was presented the other day with a slightly disturbing story about an academic (has PhD, works at a university) whose day reportedly begins by slothing out of bed around 11.00 am and ambling to the nearest fried chicken joint, swiftly ingesting 7896 of the 2000 calories a normal adult needs in a day, along with triple the allowance of salt (without counting nitrides).
I was a little surprised – I mean, strokes, heart disease, diabetes and other problems pale into insignificance beside the possibility of being followed around by Stewie Griffin with his tuba:
So how is it that fast food has got so ubiquitous today? It seems to me we need to go back to the industrial revolution – 250-odd years ago now – with its cousin, the agricultural revolution (think Jethro Tull’s seed screw) – to explain it. These shifts eventually solved the eternal human problem; getting enough food. The problem was that food production, in general, also got industrialised and commercialised – and often didn’t end up focussing on what was good for health, but on what was good for profit. That’s true of a lot more than just fast food – but there’s a lot more fast food around of late than there used to be too; and a 2013 WHO report identified deregulation as one of the drivers of a rise in fast food uptake.
The way fast food is advertised to us underlines the fact that it’s a commercial product. It’s pushed at us for its taste, for its convenience – and let’s face it, if you’re a harassed parent, coming home tired from work to a house full of kids making noises like steam sirens while bouncing off the walls – isn’t it easier to take the family down town for Yummy Duck Bites and Schlob Burger, or get a pizza delivered, or scoff down that ubiquitous box of pressure-fried Gallus gallus domesticus? What’s more, it all tastes delicious because it’s packed with the things humans are geared to like, because we couldn’t get them easily back in hunter-gatherer days– salts, sugars and fats.
It’s easy to see how it’s become so ubiquitous. Problem is, fast food is also packed with deceptively high numbers of calories (thanks to the fats, mainly). And what happens then? Well, let me go pick up that tuba. That’s quite apart from what fast food does to essential gut bacteria. The take-out lesson? I’m sure it’s OK to eat fast food on a ‘sometimes’ basis. But I doubt it’s good to eat every day. Sure, the ingredients that go in are top-quality vegetables, milk, beef, chicken, and so on – but then they’re processed, filled with chemicals to preserve them, to condition the cooking oil, to help ensure a consistency of product, and so forth.
What do I recommend? I have healthy and fast home-cooked ‘Kiwi bloke’ recipes that nobody in my household other than me eats, which I’ll be happy to share in the comments – ask.
Copyright © Matthew Wright 2015