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February 03, 1980 - Image 14

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The Michigan Daily, 1980-02-03
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Page 4-Sunday, February 3, 1980-The Michigan Daily

The Michigan Daily-Sunday, F

By Elisa Isaacson
appreciate America's junk food establishment
as an oasis in the desert. Only travel-weary,
ful - laddered motorists can know the warm thrill of
comfort that accompanies the sight of an honest-to-
god fast food strip, complete with gas station and
motel. It's so much a part of our highway-striped lan-
dscape that when you don 't find a winking blinking
patch of food/gas/lodging at any given exit, it's at least
a bit disconcerting.
When the tank's nearing empty, and your eyelids are
about to cave in with fatigue, that's when you need
those modern American comforts and conveniences.
Life on the road can be lonely and leave you feeling in
limbo; those green exit'signs forebode the presence of
civilization. They signal a whole self-sufficient world of
banks, post offices, movie houses, brothels-a world of
people whom you've never imagined (or cared)*
existed, and whom, once you spot them coming out of
the laundromat as you coast by at a newly-adjusted-to
25 mph, eyes peeled for a restaurant, you'll never give
another thought.
There's another situation, however, in which those
strips are not fulfilling the basic food and shelter
needs, but the perhaps secondary entertainment
needs. Leisure time has evolved from its inception
during the industrial revolution over 100 years ago into
a necessity for the more privileged young folk of today.
Fast food strips have become society's ghetto for
restless and bored, and they've been immortalized as
such by films like American Graffiti.
When you first got your license, cruisin' was a
novelty, and therefore a desirable way to spend your
time. It was all that, and the exotic lure of the second

i ein







childhood, that inspired me and a few friends to spend
a Saturday night in our college existences chowing our
way through the thick neon of Washtenaw Ave. bet-
ween Ypsi and Ann Arbor, to immerse ourselves in
ultra-man-made society. Risking the wail of police
sirens, indiscriminate violation of our allowances, an
of course, the health of our stomachs, we tore out i
the night in a dog-eared '73 Chrysler,_the thrill o e
endless-summer streetlights and swish of passings ars
pounding in our heads, and intensifying to a f erish
pitch, until we had crossed the twilight zone, ir-our
Saturday Night Life-in-the-Fast Lane.
No stereotype is ever completely accurat but it's
fun to pretend. So we were the Archi for the
evening-those archetypal teenagers, forqkver riding
around in a beat-up old jalopy. The fact tat we were
eating junk food-and in massive doses ould be con-
strued as disgusting and suicidal: it' loaded with
chemicals, so it's bad for you. The fa4 that we were
throwing away bucks to su rtthe cporate regime
would be to many peo But for the
moment it was o.k., because we engaging in a
cultural experience. So we readi sacrificed our-
selves for our art.
The range of junk food joints on ashtenaw is quite
broad: the strip has been Coil ng big namesfor
years. though it's contended the typical high
business turnover, There are th die-hards like Jack-
in-the-Box and Big Boy's, ' ad tentative recent ad-
,1 ti:
.:;.: .. :. ...... _ .. Lm,. ;: ... .c. 4

ditions like.the small Greek sandwich and pastry hole, chain is owned by the pet food magnate Ralston
Yassoo. We chose about a dozen for our jaunt, and Purina).
stash both a jug of wine and a bottle of Mylanta in the So you think it's all in fun? Watching two guys in bell-
We ate s stematically, starting in Ypsilanti bottoms and fad ^ jackets laughing with their
with main'courses and wending our way dessertwards mouths full at a But,'listening in on an argument
bck towardshome. between a p'- of high school'steadies over milkshakes
The prime fascination of the fast food trip, besides at Mac's, y might feel you, them, and everybody else
participating in such an event yourself, is watching all had not a 're in the world. Life, it has been said, is a
those people-unwitting innate parts of this lurid merry-g 'ound And few people really remember,
drama representative of our pre-processed culture while t' re downing cokes and fries, the sinister side
They are not people to us, but rather parts of a much of fast ;oding, the deadly underbelly of the franchise
larger picture; they conform deliciously to our expec- syste that inundates consumers with slick promos
tations. and i tant edibles.
People-watching is a national pastime, at least for YOU DECIDED not to evade the question, you'd
those with enough arrogance to consider the rest of the'most lkely agree that the chemicals accumulated
population zoo material. And probably the most fun from a hefty dose of McDonald's every day for ten
people to ogle are those who make us feel we're better- rs might very well have nasty impeeations on your
than they The boys and girls in Riverdale High jackets dy when 'ou're old. Actually, according to a Senate
are great because they're symbols of this junk food ommittee study, six of the ten leading causes of death
culture; our scenario wouldn't be complete w/out n this country are related to overdoses of sugar, fats,
them. But it's imperative t s don't realcholesterol, salt, and the lke-and these 'subs
to us, they're merely a sspart of the s coetro.sladtelieadteesb
make up the bulk of the fast food diet.
They are only a part of the moment's experience, the Well, we've seen the junk food row regulars at work.'
work of art, and we only like them because they're nine Taco Bell burritoes in one sitting is pretty im-.
playing our game for us. What they do afterwards, or pressive And does anyone up there feel any remorse
where they've come from, doesn't matter that if it's not TV., it's franchise.facsimiles that are
sedating the minds of our young people, the future '
OU MAY THINK it's not true, but it is! Those'policy makers of the United States? Higher-ups such a,
comic book people really are the ones who, executives from the Institute of Food
populate the fast food joints late at night. A Technologists-the major developers and promoters of '
girl in felt jacket and ponytails leans a'oss the table, processed foods-acknowledge that the fruits of their
craning her neck to see the snapshots her date has just livelihood are dangerous to the extent that fast food l
pulled out of his wallet. It's Saturday Night. and in 'does cause many people obesity. They even agree that,
front of her is a vanilla milkshake, an Arby-Q! san- yes, new 'n' improved research could unearth eviden-
dwich (the menu categorizes it as "roast beef"), and a Peo oemr eeehelhcneune f
ce of some more severe health consequences of
large fries. He's drinking a coke, eating the same san- r
dwich, along with two large fries. The corner of his p
wallet scoops a blob of ketchup from the fries. Over the "But what is the alternative? Go back to the' diet
table, they clasp hands ... Archie: What's that you're we had 100 years ago?" is how top IFT executive Jack
eating, Jug? Jughead: An Arby-Q! Is there any sake Francis recently addressed the issue. "People aren't
to go on this stuff? Betty: Here, try this Arby's JAll- going to go back to the salt pork, cabbage, carrots, and
purpose Sauce! It's dynamite! (Jughead shoves aft en- potatoes that they ate in New England in century back.
tie half sandwich into his mouth, and wheoe he We have to feed people, and we have to transport food, t
discovers he can't chew it all he lunges for the do )rl.) and we have to make food delivery as efficient as we.
Veronica: Let's get out of here, Archikins! We bkund possibly can . . . That means more processing, rot
across the parking lot and pile into the jalopy. Wqaburn less."t
rubber as we peel down the dri'u onto And the producing and dispensing of fast food seems
Washtenaw Ave. to cater to the very -zombie minds it contributes to.
When you embark on a junk foo trip, you ht as Denny's, for example, the family-style, 24-hour-a-d
well imbibe the most potent stuff available. That restaurant, all the distributors' food containers ha h
means the items with the most grease, the most ar- pictures on them so that even the expected quota a
tificial additives, and the tackiest names. The illiterates in the kitchen can tell what's in them. As
cashiers at most places are perfectly willing to point now, every item on the Denny's menu is designed to b
out the worst sandwich on the menu, but in a few edible if heated at temperatures between 75 and 105 t

Speakers at a recent IFT convention, repeated the
rallying cry that the Third World, the new conquering
ground, must be "motivated" to imitate us in our
eating habits. When the "underdeveloped"' nations
demand fast food in mass quantities, a whole new
market will open up for the American processors. Of
course, the power of the, industry is not one of open
coercion, but one of influence. But a good portion of the
American people have allowed themselves to be placed
in the passenger seat and driven willy-nilly through the
fast food lane of life.
Jughead: (Sigh) Well, it ain't Pop's Chok'lit Shoppe!
Archie: No, sirree! Hey, speaking of Pop's,
where are the girls? We're ready to go!
Somehow, the realities of the crap we're eating can't
penetrate our fantasyland, can't stop the performance
of this very occasional pig-out. We tour the world in
those few hours, tasting everything from pizza to tacos
to banana splits. But ethnicity is obliterated in the
uniform blandness of the industry's mass concoctions.
It's not just the food that fails to distinguish any one
of these restaurants from the next; they all look alike,
as well. Repetition is part of the learning process of
\ife, says Sigmund Freud, but in the case of chain
show-stops, consumer psychologists might do well to
defy textbook principles. We know the effect of forty-
or* successive eateries, all decorated in orange plastic
and novocained with dentist's office music.
Our enthusiasm bolstered by the wine, pretty much
everrything was hilarious. We were treated to a Spanish
lesson at Taco Bell, where each item is spelled out
phonetically under the proper name on the menu. Taco:
"tah-oe"; Tostada: "tos-tah-duh"; Burrito: "bur-
ree-to." Our stomachs suffering despite the Mylanta,
we begn cutting hamburgers in half and sharing. We
blared'the AM radio, and we ran red lights. We
were loud in our observations about the decor, the food,
the help, and the guests at the various eateries. At one
point we staged a food fight. In short, we were pretty
Our last act was to order one banana split between
the four of us at Big Boy's, insisting all the while that
none of us could eat another bite. When the ice cream
arrived, thotgh, the attack of four separate spoons was
merciless. (We'd pay for it the next morning when we
woke up wi the first fast food hangovers we'd ever
Looking b k on the jaunt days later, hangover
having long isappeared, I don't want to do it
agai thoug e had a riot while it lasted. It's a safe
food is by now an institution with a
Archies have been around for so long
hey've seen comic book prices soar from 12 cents t 40
cents. But we're not immortal like them. The fast food
lane is a utopia, and one that is not always desirable. To
succumb to the junk food junkie's lifestyle, I feel I
would be putting my own fragile mortality on the line
in comparison and possibly become as immobile and
stagnated as they. I'd rather grow old and decrepit. So
junk munching is something I do only very, very oc-
casionally, and only with conscientious understanding
of the situation. And, after all, who wants to awaken
with an ice pack on the stomach more than a couple of
times per decade?

isolated cases, the help will stare blankly at you, their
expressions belying the cheerful message of their
nametag, and insist "It's all good .... no, I guess I
can't think of which one I like best ... no . . . I think
they're all good ..." This was the case at Jack-in-the-
Box, where, ironically, fast food is at its hellish low
point. After taking a bite of his Jack Steak Sandwich,
Archie proclaimed it tasted like dog food. (Which is
provocative, considering that the Jack-in-the-Box
Elisa Isaacson is co-editor of the Sundav Magazine

The manufacturers are monopolies, no doubt about
it. A corporation like General Foods owns Burger Chef,
Post cereals, and Jell-O, to name a few spin-offs. If you
want to boycott Nestle's for selling infant formula in
the Third World, you find yourself avoiding dozens of
products besides chocolate crunch bars. And apparent-
ly the powers that be are interested in branching out, not
in curbing their activities. Elsie the Borden Cow's
company, for instance, markets 20 per cent of its
products overseas.


Photos by Jim Kruz

p i

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