Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser (Part One)

This is my second time reading Schlosser’s exposé on “the Dark Side of the All-American Meal”. After reading the book and watching Morgan Spurlock’s film “Super Size Me” for English class in Fall 2007, I immediately cut all fast food from my life. Since then I have only slipped twice – two years ago when I had an Egg McMuffin for breakfast with my dad after my blood sugar dropped and just last week in Hungary when we arrived at our hotel long after every other restaurant in town had closed.

I invited Erin of Erin Reads to read Schlosser’s book along with, and we decided to read (or listen to) the book in two parts. The first part is entitled “The American Way” and includes chapters one through four as well as the introduction. The second part, which I will discuss next week, is entitled “Meat and Potatoes” and includes chapters five through ten, the epilogue, and the afterword.

In the four years since I’ve read this book, I forgot how much of the first part provides a history of Colorado Springs. Schlosser uses the city as a backdrop for his discussion of the All-American Meal; from the rise of the drive-thru window to the decline in real wages. At first I felt like Colorado Springs was an odd choice to frame his topic within especially considering McDonald’s started in California and the rise of the automobile in California is attributed with starting the drive-thru industry. But in his introduction Schlosser states he chose Colorado Springs for a reason:

“The extraordinary growth of Colorado Springs neatly parallels that of the fast food industry: during the last few decades, the city’s population has more than doubled. Subdivisions, shopping malls, and chain restaurants are appearing in the foothills of Cheyenne Mountain and the plains rolling to the east. The Rocky Mountain region as a whole has the fastest-growing economy in the United States… and new restaurants are opening there at a faster pace than anywhere else in the nation” (pg. 7).

In the opening paragraph of his introduction, Schlosser states Americans spent more on fast food than on higher education or new cars in 2001. Fast food sales totaled more than $100 billion in that year alone. That’s crazy!

And, yet, Schlosser spends the whole first part of his book explaining how that number is achievable. McDonald’s and other fast food industries squeeze as much labor out their minimum wage employees while at the same time actively lobbying against an increase in the federal minimum wage laws. Dissatisfaction with wages, Schlosser explains, has led to fast food restaurants becoming a target for robbery by their own employees. And while homicides during robbery are the leading cause of death amongst females in the workplace, the fast food industry continues to lobby against changes. The fast food industry and soda manufactures have benefited from stretched school budgets as their products and advertising for their products has been developed as a way to bridge the budget gaps.

The first four chapters and introduction also spend a large amount of time comparing the founder of the McDonald’s we know and Walt Disney. I honestly forgot all about this comparison. McDonald’s is now considered more recognizable than Mickey Mouse, which is ironic considering Disney refused to put a McDonald’s in Disneyland at first.

So while I still have not reached the part that really changed the way I approached fast food, I am really enjoying rereading Schlosser’s book. The readability of the book is very refreshing as I’ve read some pretty difficult books to follow recently both for fun and for pleasure. Cannot wait to start on the second part.

Please be sure to check out Erin’s thoughts on Part One of Fast Food Nation! Next Thursday we will both be posting thoughts on Part Two entitled “Meat and Potatoes”.

Book Mentioned:

  • Schlosser, Eric. Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal. New York: Harper Perennial, 2005. Originally published 2001. Print. 383 pgs. ISBN: 9780060838584. Source: PaperBackSwap.
Book Cover © Harper Perennial. Retrieved: March 15, 2011.
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6 thoughts on “Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser (Part One)

  1. It’s been so long since I read this, but I remember it putting me off eating fast food too. I still trying to steer clear of the stuff, as much as I can. I forgot about the Disney comparison too!

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  2. I forgot about the whole soda in schools thing. Ugh. I appreciate how wide a view Schlosser takes with his approach, looking at the history of the fast food industry as well as the actual food. He’s certainly made me think about so many aspects of the industry I’d never considered before. And the Disney/Kroc comparison was really interesting…and so extensive!

    I started listening to part two yesterday, and…ew. I’m really glad it’s been years since I’ve eaten at a fast food place! I was listening while eating my healthy, homemade lunch today and was so repulsed I had to turn off my iPod!

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      1. It’s definitely hitting home more effectively, I think. If I were reading, I’d probably skip over some of the gory packing plant and meat descriptions, but with audio, I’m stuck listening to it! Also, the narrator does indignantly disgusted well, which doesn’t help. Though it’s definitely reinforcing my resolve to avoid fast food 🙂

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