Fast food has hastened the malling of our landscape, widened the chasm between rich and poor, fueled an epidemic of obesity, and propelled American cultural imperialism abroad. That's a lengthy list of charges, but Eric Schlosser makes them stick with an artful mix of first-rate reportage, wry wit, and careful reasoning.
Schlosser's myth-shattering survey stretches from California's subdivisions, where the business was born, to the industrial corridor along the New Jersey Turnpike, where many of fast food's flavors are concocted. Along the way, he unearths a trove of fascinating, unsettling truths -- from the unholy alliance between fast food and Hollywood to the seismic changes the industry has wrought in food production, popular culture, and even real estate.
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Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser's disturbing and timely exploration of one of the world's most controversial industries, has become a massive bestseller in America and rightly deserves to be so this side of the pond. On any given day, one out of four Americans opts for a quick and cheap meal at a fast-food restaurant, without giving either its speed or its cheapness a second thought. Fast food is so ubiquitous that it now seems harmless. But the industry's drive for consolidation, homogenisation and speediness has radically transformed the West's diet, landscape, economy and workforce, often in insidiously destructive ways.
Eric Schlosser, an award-winning journalist, opens his ambitious and ultimately devastating exposé with an introduction to the iconoclasts and high school dropouts, such as Harlan Sanders and the McDonald brothers, who first applied the principles of a factory assembly line to a commercial kitchen. However, he rapidly moves behind the counter to the overworked and underpaid teenage workers, onto the factory farms where the potatoes and beef are grown, and into the slaughterhouses run by giant meatpacking corporations. Schlosser wants you to know why those French fries taste so good (with a visit to the world's largest flavour company) and "what really lurks between those sesame-seed buns". Eater beware: forget your concerns about cholesterol, there is--literally--faeces in your meat.
Schlosser's investigation reaches its frightening peak in the meatpacking plants as he reveals the almost complete lack of regulation. His searing portrayal of the industry is disturbingly similar to Upton Sinclair's The Jungle, written in 1906: nightmare working conditions, union busting and unsanitary practices that introduced E.coli and other pathogens into restaurants, schools and homes. Almost as disturbing is his description of how the industry "both feeds and feeds off the young", insinuating itself into all aspects of children's lives, even the pages of their school books, while leaving them prone to obesity and disease. Fortunately, Schlosser offers some eminently practical remedies. "Eating in the United States should no longer be a form of high-risk behaviour", he writes. Where to begin? Ask yourself, is the true cost of having it "your way" really worth it? --Lesley ReedReview:
"Schlosser is a serious and diligent reporter..." "["Fast Food Nation"] is a fine piece of muckraking, alarming without beling alarmist."
Rob Walker, "New York Times Book Review" 1/21/01
"Eric Schlosser's "Fast Food Nation" is a good old-fashioned muckraking expose in the tradition of "The American Way of Death" that's as disturbing as it is irresistible....Exhaustively researched, frighteningly convincing....channeling the spirits of Upton Sinclair and Rachel Carson....Schlosser's research is impressive--statistics, reportage, first-person accounts and interviews, mixing the personal with the global."
"San Francisco Chronicle
"An exemplary blend of polemic and journalism....A tale full of sound, fury, and popping grease."
starred review "Kirkus Reviews
""Schlosser is part essayist, part investigative journalist. His eye is sharp, his profiles perceptive, his prose thoughtful but spare; this is John McPhee behind the counter...."
.".".everywhere in his thorough, gimlet-eyed, superbly told story, Mr. Schlosser offers up visionary glints....For pure, old-fashioned, Upton Sinclair-style muckraking, the chapters on the meatpacking industry are masterful."
"'Fast Food Nation' is investigative journalism of a very high order. And the fit between the author's reporting and his narrative style is just about perfect. The prose moves gracefully between vignette and exposition, assembling great quantities of data in small areas without bursting at the seams."
"Schlosser establishes a seminal argument for the true wrongs at the core of modern America."
"Publishers Weekly," Starred
"Reminiscent of Upton Sinclair's 'The Jungle'....."
"Schlosser has done huge amounts of intense, on-the-scene reporting, and he backs up his concerns very convincingly. He presents incredibly resonant images and statistics and observations the reader is unlikely to forget."
"San Jose Mercury News
""'Fast Food Nation' should be another wake-up call, a super-size serving of common sense...."
"Atlanta Journal Constitution
"Part cultural history, part investigative journalism and part polemic...intelligent and highly readable critique...."
"Time Out New York
"Fast Food Nation is the kind of book that you hope young people read because it demonstrates far better than any social studies class the need for government regulation, the unchecked power of multinational corporations and the importance of our everyday decisions."
"Fast Food Nation presents these sometimes startling discoveries in a manner that manages to be both careful and fast-paced. Schlosser is a talented storyteller, and his reportorial skills are considerable."
"Schlosser is a serious and diligent reporter..." "[Fast Food Nation] is a fine piece of muckraking, alarming without beling alarmist."
--Rob Walker, New York Times Book Review 1/21/01
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