For some of us, food is warmth and love. We associate it with home and childhood: tempting smells that greeted us after school on a cold December afternoon. The kitchen served as center of house under kindly direction of Captain in apron. If we were good, we might be allowed to stir pot. If we were very good, we got to clean out mixing bowl.
As we grew up, we found wonders elsewhere: coffee shops and diners where adolescents gathered and food was only a platform for real business of talking, bonding, and flirting. We drank cola and root beer and discovered sundaes, pizza and french fries. But real food was what we ate at home.
Later, we moved on to pale imitation of food represented by college cafeterias and underground cafes that were heavy on music and political rebellion and light on menu. We returned home for holidays and again ate real food, as good as we remembered. Some of us moved on to non-food of C rations and swore we'd never enjoy eating again.
We moved into world of work: automats and deli lunches or expense-account steak and martinis where even most exquisite fare took a back seat to table discussions. We married, moved into new homes, rediscovered warmth and intimacy of a family kitchen and embraced delights of gourmet cooking, homemade bread, and nouvelle cuisine.
At same time, just below our level of awareness, fast food industry started to blossom into billion dollar gorilla it is today.
At first, it was small hamburgers and hot dogs with french fries and a drink. At first, it was an occasional visit to "get mom out of kitchen." At first, it was just something fast that avoided interruptions in our race to top.
The menus expanded to encourage more frequent visits. Drive-Thrus that sat closed and empty until noon suddenly discovered how to make breakfast items that could be eaten at wheel. Chicken, fish, and ribs were added, soon followed by Mexican specialties, baked potatoes, fried vegetables, and sandwiches. The burgers got bigger and so did we.
Somewhere, a brilliant light bulb exploded in an ad man's brain and "Super-Size" was born. If a burger was good, why not make it bigger for just a little more money? If fries are staff of life for American teenagers, why not make portions bigger? Why not make best purchase value a whole meal, combining everything customer wants (and maybe something they don't)? Why not Super-Size whole meal and really make money?
Rather than an occasional change-of-pace, Drive-Thru gradually assumed a predominant place in our diets. Astute marketers targeted their sales pitches to most responsive and easily manipulated niche of population: children. Tired, time-strapped parents yielded to tearful pleas to visit Ronald or Jack. And our children grew fat.
Teenagers, with their deep-seated psychological preference to live in their cars existed on a diet made up, almost exclusively, of fast food, turning up their noses at thought of a home-cooked meal. Active and full of energy, they ignored almost imperceptible puffiness that their intake triggered.
What was there to worry about? The Drive-Thrus were a gift from heaven: tasty food, fast access, car-proof containers, cheap satiation.
Then we woke up. We looked at a world where even average individual was clearly overweight and more than a third of us were obese, even our children. In a culture obsessed with appearance of being thin, we were become permanently, indisputably, fat.
The few earlier voices of criticism increased to a low roar. The tasty creations of yesterday became now-maligned culprits of our condition. To keep money-machine viable, fast food moguls adapted to cries for change: oil used for frying was trumpeted as unsaturated, salads appeared on menus, substitute sides for french fries became available, and "Super-Size it?" was no longer order taker's standard refrain.