Fast Food: A Remarkable Achievement
You may be a health fanatic and prefer your food free range or organically produced, but the sheer audacity and scope of what we have achieved in the last few centuries should make the mind boggle.
MCDONALD’S AND other fast food restaurants come in for their fair share of criticism on a regular basis, mainly for the quality of their food. We should be avoiding these places, according to some, choosing healthy options, cooking our own meals from scratch. Burgers contain too much salt, too much fat; the cuts of meat are pretty low grade.
Across the world, almost every town and city has a McDonald’s, all throwing out cheap burgers for a few rupees a pop. You may be a health fanatic and prefer your food free range or organically produced, but the sheer audacity and scope of what we have achieved in the last few centuries should make the mind boggle. Instead of knocking companies like McDonald’s, perhaps we should be applauding them.
Let’s look at a couple of things we take for granted.
You can pop out your door and buy food. You don’t have to hunt it down; you don’t have to forage in the forest or labour for months in fields producing crops. You simply get out your debit card, go to a supermarket and pay for what you want.
If you wanted to produce and make a McDonald’s burger without the infrastructure we have now, you’d have to raise the meat, milk the cow to make cheese, grow the wheat and grind it and find some yeast for the bread, grow lettuce and tomatoes and that’s even before you get to the dressing. Ask yourself just how you are going to do this for just a few pounds?
Two things have transformed the world in which we live. The first is trade – because without that you wouldn’t have half the products on your shelf and you would probably never have heard of tomatoes or gherkins. Even the coffee you might have with your burger and those tasty fries all originally came from somewhere else.
The next problem, of course, is storing all that food. Where would we be without transport networks? Or refrigeration? Or curing and preserving techniques? All these have spread across the world because of our growing interconnection. It means we can have food anytime, anywhere.
Go back just six or seven hundred years and you wouldn’t have seen one single sign of a tomato in Italy. Now it’s hard to find a Mediterranean meal without one in the recipe. But the truth is, tomatoes didn’t originate in Italy, they came from Latin America and were only brought over when people started exploring and trading. Nowadays you won’t find a street where someone isn’t either growing or using tomatoes in their cooking.
You might laugh at the humble McDonald’s cheeseburger and vilify its health qualities but it actually provides about half of what we need as human beings to sustain us through the day. The fact that it is readily available, is the same across all outlets and comes at a pretty knock down price seems to escape most people.
The foundations of our civilisation are built on such things. It’s not governments or laws or your nightly TV shows, it’s the stuff we make available because we have the trade and transportation networks in place and the ability to provide food when in centuries gone by most people would have been starving to death because of a local blight or drought.
So next time you pass by a fast food chain and are about to sneer, consider what it says about our civilisation. You don’t have to go in and buy a burger and coke, if you don’t want. You can head to your local supermarket and chose some alfalfa and soy protein with a little salad, instead. It’s there, waiting for you. You don’t have to hunt it down. You don’t have to grow it. But the same remarkable principles that lie behind your burger are behind that health food too.
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