Friday, 30 May 2008

A Little Rant About Fast Food

Well, as predicted, this week has been awfully full of work. A tenant moved out; she was there for 8 years, and we lived in the apartment ourselves for 5 years before that and passed it on to her in good condition. Consequently, it has not been painted for 13 years! Every inch of the unit now needs repainting. Normally, we would keep an apartment vacant for a month to deal with that much painting, but the tenant moved out a week early and we decided we could do it. Probably we will. But not much has been happening around here this week besides working and sleeping, puncutated by the occasional sandwich or quick meal out.

On which topic...

Fast food used to be better. I know it was. It's not just that I'm getting older and pickier about what goes into my mouth. It's certainly not that I have any view of the past as some kind of lost golden age. Fast food has always been all about exploitation and profits. That hasn't changed. The thing is, the food has changed, and it's definitely worse.

Maybe not McDonalds. I've always hated their stuff. The Big Mac was the first modern fast food I was exposed to, at about age 15. Even as an undiscriminating teenager, I took one bite and passed the rest of it to my brother, who unfortunately was even less discriminating. Their fries are pale, flaccid and greasy, and smell vaguely of vomit. Nothing new there, I assume - I don't think I've been in a McDonalds in at least 5 years. Wendy's, on the other hand, used to make a fairly edible hamburger. It looked and tasted like meat, at any rate. Now it reminds me of paté, but not in a good way; greasy-smooth in texture, fatty, and was that liver I tasted? Not good liver, I'll tell you that. The fattiness was nasty, and left my mouth feeling grease-coated for an hour. Feh.

Harveys' burgers were always full of filler, but they used to have not just decent french fries, but good ones. Ancient history for at least 10 years now; their reasonable selection of burger toppings just aren't worth going in for without anything else decent to eat with them. The good fries hung on a little longer at Swiss Chalet, but they are long gone there too, along with fresh-tasting chicken. Any I've had in the last year or two has seemed soggy, stringy and re-heated, not to mention the amazing shrinking portions and expanding prices.

Speaking of chicken, we used to get a decent roast chicken (it contained chicken, salt) from Costco. They too disappeared about 5 years ago, replaced with soggy, stringy reheated stuff with an ingredient list as long as my arm. Tim Hortons?* They used to make a chicken salad sandwich I thought was reasonable. However, the last one I had was sold as a chicken salad sandwich. It looked like a chicken salad sandwich. It was priced like a chicken salad sandwich. Unfortunately, it was not a chicken salad sandwich. It was made with some sort of re-formed, salty, gelatinous mess with slight chicken flavour and passable chicken colour (which, lets face it, is not that different from sawdust... hmm.) Yech. Don't even talk to me about their doughnuts. Walkin' talkin' chemical dumps and none too fresh half the time.

Okay, I understand that fast food chains are always looking to cut costs. But what I DON'T understand is why people put up with this kind of crap. Do they not notice? Do they not care? Why don't they scream to high heaven, or at least do what I do, and never darken the doors of these establishments again except in the direst of dire emergencies? Of course, the fast food joints work hard to convince us all that life is an endless series of dire food emergencies, for which they have the solution. Or maybe it's just that they bombard us so constantly with advertising that most people become convinced that this is what food is actually like.

The one good thing I can see about all this is that fast food is getting to be such an unmitigated disaster; morally, culturally, financially, dietetically and gastronomically that surely a lot more people than me are running away from this crap, screaming as they go.

So let's speak up, loud and clear: the emperor has no food. Bring a sandwich and an apple (how long does it take to fling a slice of cheese, some lettuce and tomato into a bun?) Eat at an independent restaurant - Ontario is generally pretty rich in inexpensive ethnic restaurants, at least if you are in any reasonable sized town. Let them know you would like them to use local, seasonal food, and when they do so, order it. And finally, buy and eat good food when you are at home, so that when someone puts a big, fat steaming pile of CRAP in front of you, you will know it and call it by name.

*This is the one we ate at recently and set me off.


Gato Azul | Chat Bleu said...

YAY! Well said... extremely well said! I think the whole production chain is moving towards tastelessness. You have to «forage» now to find good produce. For Montrealers into some fast food, here are 2 adresses that have not changed since I was a kid... Mr. Steer (for out of this world hamburgers and curly-q fries) and Chalet Bar-B-Q for fries made with real russet potatoes and clove-scented spicy barbecue sauce and juicy chicken. When I crave fast food, I crave for those 2 places... may they live on. Otherwise, I'd rather do it myself!

Bellini Valli said...

Amen to all of that Ferdzy. Years ago when I lived in Galt(Cambridge) there was a Harveys on Water Street across from the parking lot. The best fries in the world...I even ate their foot long cheesedogs. There is a Harveys here now in Home Depot (the first BC franchise I have seen)and sadly it just doesn't compare:D

maryinmuskoka said...

Thank you.

Kevin Kossowan said...

I have to admit I enjoy the very occasional romp into disgusting-dom for a junk-food novelty. But you're right, it's bad in the epic-proportions-kind-of-way. Sign me up for a sandwich and tap water.