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Let’s take a deeper look at the American fast food culture and the emerging slow food alternative, by exploring the history of fast food and what slow food really means.
America is often thought of as the world capital of fast food. There are a lot of fast food restaurants in this country for sure, but the first fast food restaurants are also from America. McDonalds might be the most well-known fast food restaurant in America, but it wasn’t the first. White Castle is usually cited at the first fast food chain to ever exist. White Castle was founded in 1921 in the state of Kansas. Before White Castle started serving what we typically think of as fast food – hamburgers and French fries – this food wasn’t sold in restaurants. Hamburgers and French fries used to only be found at fairs or circuses; the White Castle restaurants changed that. The McDonald brothers opened their now famous McDonalds restaurant chain in 1948 and soon after came Burger King, Wendy’s, Carl’s Jr., Taco Bell and KFC. All of these fast food chains still exist, which says something about people’s love for cheap food served fast, but that is not the only kind of food Americans like.
Slow food is a term used to describe a different kind of food movement. This is a food movement geared toward good, clean, and fair food. The slow food movement started in Italy in the 1980’s but has been embraced by many in America, especially chefs. Slow food is locally grown, usually organic, artisanal, and healthy food. Slow food tries to preserve traditional and regional foods, while also promoting sustainability. Examples of the growth of slow food in the United States can be found in many major cities, like San Francisco, California, New York City, New York, or Portland, Oregon. Slow food restaurants usually offer farm to table menus. On a farm to table menu you can read about where your food came from, on which farm the ingredients were grown, or the meat was raised. A very famous, and expensive, example of a slow food restaurant is Chez Panisse in San Francisco, with chef Alice Waters.
Although fast food and slow food don’t seem to have much in common, there are some people trying to make fast food into something that is more like slow food. One example of this is a fast food restaurant called ‘b.good’ (http://www.bgood.com/). At a b.good restaurant you can order a hamburger and fries and find out exactly where that hamburger meat came from and see pictures of the farmers who grew the potatoes for the fries and vegetables on your burger on the walls. Maybe someday we will call this kind of food ‘flow’ (fast+slow) food.
Do you have a favorite fast food restaurant or a slow food restaurant? Share your thoughts on this in the comment box below.