22 Fast Food Bad, Slow Food Also Bad

Fast food is often criticized but slow food cannot scale to meet the requirements of a population approaching 10 billion. Fast food is a machine whose moving parts are visible. The golden arches of McDonald’s are believed to be among the most recognized symbols on the planet. The company’s industrial design strategies – everything in a fast food kitchen is on the clock – and end products are now-familiar skeuomorphs that mask the legal agreements, intellectual property, and management protocols that in fact define the business.

The opposite of fast food isn’t slow food – it’s better fast food. It’s clear that if we’re serious about halting atmospheric warming we need big oil’s infrastructure to drawn down and store carbon, perhaps the same is true of food? A franchise that constitutes and packages algae or tofu in a vibrant spectrum of dishes and on-the-go forms could be the first ecological fast food restaurant. The production of patties, nuggets, and sauces is obscure by design. When Donald Trump presented Clemson University’s football team with burgers and “many, many french fries” served on golden platters during the federal shutdown in early 2019, he did so entirely without irony. Consider then the scenes that Barack Obama and Joe Biden were a part of when they chose to have burgers for lunch. The pair dined in small-scale, local establishments, carefully constructed from the condiments to the other diners somehow unaware the president was in the next booth over. Trump’s lack of awareness revealed Obama’s conceit.

The same dialectic applies to slow food – where food is no longer evaluated for what it is or does but rather what it represents. In many respects, the slow food movement thinks food matters more than it does, emphasizing regional, communal practices by obscuring the relational and actual dynamics by which they emerge. Slow food instrumentalizes sentimentality to draw food cultures into the global economy, “saving” traditions soon to be “lost” to globalization by reproducing them as artefacts. The choices over which dishes are to be saved are made by the usual cast of Euro-American elites. Consider Oscar Farinetti, owner of the Eataly franchise and founder of a food-oriented theme park in Bologna who has made millions exporting the dream of Italian sun-kissed culinary richness. Meanwhile Italy’s real food politics are concerned with other matters. Ask any Italian, the food system is poisonous and mozzarella di bufala is literally garbage.