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Book Review: Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal

Reviewed By: Jennifer Jordan

[3.5 stars]

Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal     Amazon US PB Amazon Canada PB
Eric Schlosser
Class/Genre:   Non-Fiction   Sociology
2002, Perennial Current Events/Sociology - 400 pages

What did you have for lunch today? Did you have to talk into a speaker and drive around to get it or possibly go inside, stare at a menu whilst in line and have a "cheery" teenager behind a counter bring it to you on a tray? Then you joined a quarter of the population in their consumption of fast food. Fast food has become a way of life in America and it's spreading its deep-fried wings across the world. This book is about the industry behind the smiling clown and the southern fried colonel who beckon to us from every highway and mall in this country.

In his introduction, Mr. Schlosser talks about the experience every customer has with fast food. He discusses its wide appeal and how "a nation's diet can be more revealing than it's art or literature." He also mentions a word you will hear often in sections of this book. Franchise. Technically, it means a right to sell a company's products in a particular area using the company's name. In this book we learn it also means uniformality. In an actual quote from Ray Kroc, in reference to his own franchises, we hear "We have found out … that we cannot trust some people who are nonconformists." And there's more. ""We will make conformists out of them in a hurry … the organization cannot trust the individual; the individual must trust the organization."

We then dive right into the "founding fathers" of fast food and how their idea of a quick and cheap meal somehow revolutionized America and literally paved the way for a transformation of vast proportions in many industries. The thinking behind the burgers in our mouths includes that of a marketing ploy aimed specifically at children and a work ethic that requires obedience from its employees and owners more than any other quality. Obedience doesn't seem to pay well.

Of course, the meat industry is mentioned. The conditions are scandalous in regard to the product itself and the treatment of its workers. They put their lives and limbs at risk every day upon entering the processing plants. Strangely, most of them are immigrants. There are entire chapters devoted to "Why the Fries Taste Good" and "What's in the Meat." We discover the might of the meat industry and learn that the government agencies in charge of inspecting meat products are run by the owners of the meat processors themselves.

This is another book that will make you think, but I wouldn't suggest complete "obedience" to Mr. Schlosser's thinking. The only drawback I found was a reliance on the Republican Party for all the food ills in this nation. That said, this is a well-researched and thought provoking book that will leave you wondering what it really is you're about to put in your mouth.

Jennifer Jordan

Reprinted with permission. Do Not repost without permission from the author, Jennifer Jordan

Please Note: Books reviewed are usually provided by the publisher, author, or an agent. Reviewers usually get to keep the book.

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