I hate the Colonel with his wee, beady eyes and that smug look on his face. "Oh, you're gonna buy my chicken, ohhhh!"
I just finished Fast Food Nation, and I felt one feeling while reading every chapter; every sub-chapter; even every couple of pages. It wasn’t what I was supposed to feel. It wasn't indignation. It wasn’t revulsion. It wasn’t outrage. It wasn’t even shame or despair or a call to activism. It was, god damn, I want some McDonalds.
It was the one incontrovertible personal truth I could discover throughout the course of the book: McDonalds is delicious. Everything else is in a tricky gray area, most of it quite dark, verging on black. But all I know for sure is that I would read something like, “levels of E. Coli in McDonalds ground beef are startlingly high because there’s shit in the meat” and I would say, “wow, that’s gross. Shit in the meat. In the McDonalds hamburger… no, cheeseburger… double quarter pounder… with fries… and some of that soft-serve ice cream… man, I want some McDonalds.” I would read, “illegal immigrant laborers lose limbs and receive virtually no workers’ compensation,” and I would think, “man, that must be terrible, ankle-deep in a standing pool of blood killing cows all day and cutting their stomachs out so they can be ground up into… ungodly delicious McDonalds hamburgers… man, I want some McDonalds.” It kept happening, over and over again, and it was completely out of my control. I don’t like food, and I don’t generally get food cravings. I resent the act of eating, and if I didn’t have to do it, I probably wouldn’t. But this, it was more pathological or sexual than it was a simple craving for, you know, potato chips or Mike ‘n’ Ikes. More akin to the response you would expect from reading a trashy romance novel. No matter how bad it gets, it’s still kind of hot.
And all this from a book that makes McDonalds look very close to evil, and makes their food sound very close to unacceptable. It’s really a tremendous book. It paints an unbelievably unflattering profile of fast food chains without resorting to any low-blow PETA hisses and hate-hoots. It's smart, and it's measured, and the message is, there's really no good reason to eat fast food. But that sidesteps the fact that there's one really good reason to eat fast food. It's delicious.
It's also cheap.
I’m pretty sure I haven’t gone to McDonalds-or-equivalent since I started reading the book. But I’ll be honest, when I got to the part that said, “Cattle that are not eaten by people, that are simply allowed to grow old and weak, still get eaten – by coyotes and turkey buzzards, and it’s not a pretty sight,” I went out the next day and ate two cheeseburgers. Neither from a fast food restaurant. But both courtesy of very dead cows, the selfsame creatures the consumption of whom I have been staving off for so long. And they were both incredible. And when the waitress asked me what I wanted on them, and I said everything, “everything” turned out to be, both times, onions, pickles, ketchup, and mustard. How familiar.
Fucking fast food. You’ve got me. You’ve had me since I was born, and I hate you for it.
But I'm trying, Ringo. I'm trying real hard to be the shepherd.
-“I hated the Colonel, with his wee beady eyes, and that smug look on his face, 'Oh, you're going to buy my chicken, oh oh!'”
-“Dad, how can you hate the Colonel?”
-“Because he puts an addictive chemical in his chicken that makes you crave it fortnightly, smartass!”
~So I Married An Axe Murderer