Tuesday, August 21, 2018

The Gastro-Industrial Complex

Among foodies and those concerned with health and longevity, the gastro-industrial complex is looked at a little the way one regards the seasons of increasing virulent hurricanes. McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King, Popeyes, KFC, Dunkin Donuts and the chains offering a slightly higher level of modestly priced fare like Red Lobster and Applebees are looked at with both suspicion and disdain. Rumors abound of farms producing genetically engineered parts of chickens and there's always the question of the quality of ingredients like meat. Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation was a famous expose of an industry credited with an epidemic of obesity amongst the poor. Low income individuals don’t have the assets to afford delicacies like farm fed beef and organic vegetables which tend to command premium prices. There’s no doubt that diet and health are inextricably intertwined. On the other hand there's something wistful about fast food and the nostalgia occasioned by the childhood memories of ubiquitous McDonald’s arches which greet anyone cruising down Route #1(this was in part the message of the Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown classic, Learning from Las Vegas). McDonald’s is like a utility and it’s familiar Big Macs, Quarter Pounders and McNuggets can be as reassuring as the site of a post office. Vacationers seek out the exotic, but they also take pleasure in feeling at home wherever they go and the fake fireplace in the latest generation of Wendy’s with their Baconators can provide a respite from the alienation and estrangement of modern life. The Colonel is a piece of advertising hype, but have you ever smiled to yourself when you looked into his face after a long ride, facing a host of mnemonic olfactory sensations that derive from the remembrance of “buckets” past.

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