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Fast Food - thoughts?

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I was just reading an article about fast food on chow topics. The article stated, "Consumer Reports surveyed 36,733 readers who frequent fast-food chains (let's be honest, who doesn't?)"

The "Let's be honest, who doesn't?" really got to me. We truly do not eat fast food. Ever. As in, my 9 yo daughter has never been to McDonald's, etc.

Are we really odd, or is this an over-generalization? Is fast food that prevalent in US culture and we're just weird?

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  1. As this is July 19th, 2011 it means l have not been to a fast food restaurant for 8 years, 6 months, and 19 days. It was a New Year's Eve resolution and that and ceasing smoking on New Year's Eve 1973 were the only ones l have ever kept.

    1. ... yes and no. I also pity your daughter, for not having the chance to know what fast food tastes like.

      there are plenty of places in my city where the only foods come from a minimarket or fast food. and not everybody's got a car.

      1. I still remember my first trip to McDonalds. My cousins were visiting us in Montana from Chicago, and they HAD to go through the drive-through to get an order of fries. I watched in disgust as they squeezed packets of ketchup into a napkin and dipped the fries. I couldn't believe that these sophisticated city folks ate such crap. We were a large family that raised and grew a lot of our own food, not because we were snobs, but because we had the land and not a lot of money. A trip to A&W was a once-a-year treat after burning ditches or bucking hay.

        Even though fast food was mostly absent from my childhood, I still went through a lazy period in my 20s where I didn't have much interest in cooking for myself (maybe because I worked as a cook), and I found myself eating a lot of fast food. I always felt like it was a phase, and that I'd revert back to better eating habits once my life and home situation was more stable. Fast forward to age 29, I bought a house, settled into my career, and my food habits reverted back to how I was raised. Today, we eat as little processed food as possible, and the only prepared food in our pantry are a couple boxes of dry pasta and taco shells. I ordered a frozen dessert from McDs a few months ago, and I couldn't finish more than a couple bites without getting a bad case of GERD.

        Fast food is that prevalent, but you're certainly not weird. I imagine most kids (and adults) go through periods where they don't eat as good as they should, or even eat how they want. How you raise your daughter will have a lasting impression on her, and she will likely adopt the same good eating habits as an adult. She might develop a taste for chicken nuggets during her sleep deprived college years, but she'll get over it.

        1. A lot of it is how one defines "fast food". Are we just talking about national chains? I haven't been in a MacDonalds in years, but I had a burrito from a local small chain just last week that took about 60 seconds to assemble and wrap up.

          I think Subway is gross and would never eat there, but I had an eggplant parm sub recently from a local pizzza shop. Fast food or no?

          1. I think you're probably in the minority, velochic.

            I probably do fast food about once a month because my kids actually think it's a treat. But given that I just paid $3.50 the other day for a sausage and egg mcmuffin and then $5.00 for a sad looking and small side of corn cake at El Pollo Loco on another occasion, coupled with this economy, I have a feeling the tide is going to turn a bit.

            Fast food used to be a reasonable economic tradeoff - inferior food for benefit of time and budget. But when breakfast for one at Cracky D's runs 5 to 7 bucks, it doesn't make much sense for a lot of people anymore...

            1. I would love to know what the definition of "frequent" is in their study. I think there are many families who go to a drive-through for convenience or as a way to get their kids fed on the way from point A to point B but don't prefer to feed their families in that manner.

              What I find ironic is that the same families who take pride in having their kids excel athletically and have them in sports year-round find themselves so busy and overscheduled that drive-through dining becomes their default mealtime solution.

              I will never pass judgment on others for their choices because everyone has to deal with their own set of circumstances and do their best. For me, it just doesn't work to be so over-scheduled on a given afternoon/evening that fast food seems the only option. I work hard to keep our schedule balanced and to make time to cook meals at home for the whole family at least 3 times a week.

              On extra busy days, I try to plan and have a heavy snack in the car for my daughter with protein and fruit, or maybe a sandwich if it is a mealtime. There are just some days that traffic and unexpected circumstances conspire against me and I give in to the ease of a drive-through. Taking my daughter to choir practice without getting protein in her system is just not kind to her choir director. :-)

              I really hate drive-throughs. That is the thing that calls me back to fast food chains when it happens. If I had to get out and walk into the restaurant, I would just go to a deli and get a sandwich, salad, or something else.

              1. I can't imagine getting most of my food from a fast-food place, or even eating such things regularly, but there are some things I like very much and indulge myself with them once in a while. An early-day road trip or run to an estate sale will usually entail a McMuffin stop, and as long as McDo continues their two-for-one sausage-and-egg muffin deal I will continue to overeat. Mrs. O just gets one regular. I celebrated my 60th birthday partly by stopping for my first In-N-Out, a Double Double, and intended to celebrate my 70th the same way but somehow blew it … but there'll be time for a belated one. I have a recurrent craving for KFC, and Popeye's hot chicken is ALMOST an adequate substitute for the long-gone KFC Hot'n'Spicy Extra-Crispy, close enough to get some once a year or so.

                My first visit to a McDonald's was ca. 1955, when a couple of carloads of us being ferried back from a church camp stopped at a new one in Champaign (or maybe Urbana), Illinois. Fifteen-cent hamburgers and twenty-cent shakes were a hot deal then (when a 5¢ or 10¢ price difference really meant something); the burgers themselves were decent, though as used as I was to real ice-cream fountain shakes I thought these soft-serve things were pretty blah. Nowadays, I can't understand how McDonald's can compete in LA's burger market, except that lots of people will continue to buy what they've always bought, and the menu has grown to offer a lot of other things.

                1. Depends on the definition of "fast food."

                  I consider Chipotle, Baja Fresh, Moe's, Panera, Noodles, and the ilk to be fast food. And I do eat at some of those. But I don't go to McDonalds, Burger King, etc.

                  And good for you. Your kid deserves better food. My mother had a similar stance, so my exposure to fast food was limited to late high school through college. Once I had a kitchen of my own that pretty much stopped.

                  1. I don't frequent them very much myself, but for about 50% of America, that's about all they eat.
                    For those that hate them, I'm sure they "Cry all the way to the bank"!

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: mrbigshotno.1

                      I don't eat fast food EVER. Not gonna happen.

                      1. re: Njchicaa

                        Never gonna have a stirfry? Or some deepfried marsbars? Or some thrown together noodles? Let alone not taste the awesomeness that is McDonald's french fries?

                        I guess a diet's a diet, and if you break it once, you become a balloon.

                    2. We took our kids to Mickey D's one or two times a month when they were little. It was a treat for them, and as I cooked dinner six nights out of seven, and packed healthy lunches for them to take to school, I never figured it was detrimental. (They are both in their 20's now, and won't set foot inside a fast food joint.)

                      1. No fast food since August of 2008, best decision I ever made.

                        1. Aside from the occasional pair of tacos from Jack in the Box and Popeye's chicken, we don't eat any fast food at all.

                          (But don't ask me to give up my tacos or Popeye's.)

                          1. It's not as if there are 2 alternatives: e.g. "avoid fast food at all costs" or "become a fast food junkie." I had plenty of fast food as a kid (in addition to lots of home cooked meals) and I took my kids out for fast food "treats" (everyone knows what a Happy Meal is, whether they've eaten one or not). I still occasionally make a quick stop for a fast food meal and I don't doubt my recent college grad kids do (and how does anyone make it through 4 years of college without some fast food??), but's it not as if we seek out fast food because we were brainwashed as kids. It's just a quick alternative when you're on the go.

                            1. As a student (and as, at the time, someone with access to a car) I ate a lot of fast food, mainly McD's and Burger King. I love fast food, think it's yummy, and still have it about twice a year. A testament to my laziness is the fact that I probably don't eat it as much anymore because I don't have a car and if I can't drive-thru, I probably won't make the effort. So for me, laziness = less fast food. Ha.

                              McD's fries and a quarter pounder with cheese remains a meal of pure pleasure in my world.

                              EDIT: As a Canadian, I am jealous of the array of 'higher end fast food' places in the States - there are SO many places I would like to try and would definitely frequent if they were here. In N Out is at the top of my list. Sigh. *deprived Canuck*

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: montrealeater

                                would you trade schwartz's and poutine and st viateur for "high-end" fast food chains?

                                1. re: kpaxonite

                                  NO!!!

                                  *duly chastised* :D

                                  But I would like to have the option, you know? Ever since I first went to an American supermarket when I was a kid I've had this idea in my head of the States as this cornucopia of convenience food.

                                  1. re: montrealeater

                                    go to guido and angelina's or maybe nickels... they are just as 'good' as US high-end chains

                                    (1st ever rec on ch for a really bad restaurant)

                                2. re: montrealeater

                                  You live in Montreal and you envy our crappy food?

                                3. I try to eat all foods. I don't frequent fast food, but there are times. It's either out of curiosity or just stressed for time (and very hungry). It's not good food, but it's fast and filling; sometimes that's all we have time for.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: ediblover

                                    some of it's good food. mcd's french fries are in the top 20 french fries, plain period.

                                    1. re: Chowrin

                                      Oh, but of course there are special exceptions like McDonald's fries. I'd go even further and say they're pretty much the leader when it comes to developing the fry (since they spend millions doing it) and have the best widely available fry out there.

                                  2. We eat at Chipotle all the time, and I consider that fast food. It's fast and it's actually food. If you order well, it can even be healthy.

                                    My 16 year old daughter has had McDonald's once or twice and ordered the yogurt or salad. She has never liked fried food, so most traditional fast food places are out. My 14 year old son would eat there every week if we'd allow it.

                                    I think it's unusual never to have gone to a fast food place, but many people do not *frequent* such places.

                                    1. As you can see from many of these responses, you are correct in noting the overgeneralization suggesting that everyone frequents "fast food chains." There has clearly been a trend away from routinely consuming these types of "foods" in the past decade. Had it not been for the severe economic disasters of the past three years, the trend would have likely progressed more quickly. As it is, I see the avoidance of such restaurants is more common amongst the better educated and more affluent.

                                      Sadly, fast food is still too prevalent in our culture. Such things, however, can change. Clearly there are those of us who know better and don't buy fast food out of laziness or based upon manipulation. Thoughtful consumption has a place in American culture.

                                      1. Food is holy, not just a bodily function. Fast food joints are a tool of the capitalist devil who not only wants to steal you money and your health, but your Chowhound morals, as well.

                                        ps except for Stewart's hot dogs and root beer. {;0)

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: Passadumkeg

                                          Preach the Lord's word, Brother Pass.

                                          1. re: Passadumkeg

                                            Amen!

                                            1. re: gaffk

                                              I'd druther go hungry than have the shadows of golden arches cross my path. Even on loooong interstate trips, I either plan ahead, via CH and carry along a print outs (Like Holly.eats) or go ask at gas stations and convenience stores. as an old fart Maine Guide, the GPS is also anther tool of the devil to distract from the passion of the mission.
                                              Monty Dumkeg's Search for the Holy Meal

                                              ps I did go hungry often in Nam, but not for lack of fast food.

                                          2. Best burger I ever had was a whopper with cheese in Hong Kong airport after spending 6 weeks working inland in China.

                                            If you travel internationally, sometimes its gonna happen-especially if you are with other Americans that are not adventurous eaters. But other than that, totally avoid it when home and on normal schedule.

                                            1. I think most people hit up fast food occasionally. I feel pretty confident that we eat less of it than most people, but I know my teenagers eat a lot more of it than they should. I don't think it's an over generalization. Fast food is very prevalent in our culture. I can't tell you how many times my son's sports teams stop after a game for a burger. I wouldn't deny him that, it's maybe 3 or 4 meals a month, and it's all about being together. Maybe your kid is too young for those 'let's all meet at Wendy's for a burger after the game', but you time is coming.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: jeanmarieok

                                                I coached HS soccer on the priviso, that we would never stop on fast food chains on away games; they were desperate and agreed. One kid, said, Ya know Coach Dumkeg, playing for you is like an appetizer. We even went to No Resevation's Conte's Resto and the Common Ground (organic) Fair.( I got the whole team in for free.) Never be afraid to set standards. I think I'm safe to say that none of our 21-31 y.o. son's have been to chains in years.
                                                The beer can does not fall far from the Keg.

                                              2. I was a the General Manager of a fast food restaurant for 7.5. I ate there every day. :p ( I got free food. Really, could not afford not to eat there every day. But did try to eat healthier options. Add up $5-7 a day of food, 6 days a week for 7.5 years. That's a lot of money I didn't spend on food. I worked 50-65 hrs a week). I quit on 3/15/06 and have not eaten there since. I have had fast food twice in 2.5 years, and that was because I was having a low blood sugar moment and did not have food or drink with me, which I usually always have. I had a frosty and a 5 piece chicken at Wendy's. I don't really miss it at all. The only thing I wish I could have, would be a piece of Popeye's chicken. Other than that, I don't miss it, and probably won't be eating any.