Fast food has been an integral part of the modern world for many years already. For many people having hamburgers and hot dogs is an everyday ritual. Where did fast food come from? And is it true that this type of food is terribly unhealthy?
It was believed some time ago that the 20th century was the epoch of fast food because it was the period when fast food emerged and speedily developed. However, the 21st century is highly likely to break new records in the fast food industry.
Today, we do not have enough time to enjoy slow meals as the modern life dictates a fast and rash mode of living. Instead of a well-served slow meal people have to be content either with a business lunch in a nearby canteen or swallow instant soups right in the office. And it is wrong to state that fast food is typical of the modern times only. Experts state that fast food existed in the ancient times as well.
Fast food was very popular in antiquity. In Ancient Greece, people loved to cook meals at home while ancient Romans often had no kitchens in their houses which meant they did not cook anything at home. In every town, there were lots of snack bars and markets where people could buy any meals they wanted. Scones made of yeast dough with olive oil were in great demand and could be used as edible plates. Centuries later, these plates covered with cheese, sausage and vegetables became popular as an Italian pizza. Romans also had special hamburgers: those were scones made of beef that were supposed to be eaten with bread. Professor Felipe Fernandez-Armesto wrote in his book A History of Food that an average ancient Roman ate much fast food than a contemporary New York dweller. The only difference between the ancient fast food and the modern one is that in ancient time that was a fresher and healthier fast food that today’s hamburgers and hot-dogs. Other countries also had some varieties of fast food. In China, merchants in markets sold hot noodles that were cooked in an instant. Indians loved scones called ‘chapati’ that were served with a spicy sauce and chicken pieces with karri. In Europe, people often ate different scones and Russia was always known for its pies.
The fast food industry emerged in America in the 1920s. Before that, Americans traditionally cooked meals at home. But the industrial growth and a speedily developing automobile industry gave people no opportunity for cooking at home. That was a good period for opening fast food restaurants in America.
White Castle was a pioneer company in selling fast food. It opened in Kansas in 1921. White Castle offered its best meal, hamburgers, that were unusual for Americans at that time. Clients of the company preferred White Castle fast food basically because of its stable price. In spite of the Depression, WWII and inflation the company had been selling hamburgers for five cents each until 1946.
When some clients of the company doubted if the food sold at the White Castle restaurants was healthy, the owner of the White Castle network Billy Ingram invented a trick. He hired several young men who put on white doctor coats and came to the restaurants every day to have some hamburgers. Clients believed those were doctors and thought that White Castle meals were not bad for health. At the end of the 1940s, several rival companies came to the market, and McDonald’s turned out to be the strongest one.
McDonald’s had a rather modest beginning. Brothers Dick and Mack McDonald who sold barbecue in a small restaurant for California drivers decided to start making hamburgers. The idea was successfully fulfilled in 1948, and the company’s income considerably increased. In 1954, the brothers were offered to open McDonald’s restaurants all about the country and again the idea was a success. In 1956, there were only 14 McDonald’s restaurants while the number increased to 11,800 by 1990. Now, the corporation owns over 30,000 restaurants in 119 countries of the world, and White Castle has only about 380 restaurants in the US.
In the recent years, McDonald’s regularly faces serious problems. The company’s sales awfully dropped in the US and other developed countries after healthy food activists called for boycotting fast food. Some restaurants were even closed. Russia is the country where McDonald’s has the most stable business. Every year, the company opens tens of new restaurants in Russia and each of them has three times more clients than McDonald’s has in European countries.
Under the Soviet regime, there were no fast food restaurants in Russia, and this explains why opening of the first McDonald’s restaurant in Moscow was a big event for Russians on January 21, 1990. Statistics said that over 30,000 people had American hamburgers with cola on the first day of McDonald’s opening in Moscow . And the love for American fast food was growing stronger since that time. McDonald’s is still the surest leader on the Russian fast food market.
In the mid-1990s, the Moscow authorities launched a network of the national fast food Russian Bistro to compete with Americans. But the idea was a failure. Recently, more national fast food restaurants appeared in Russia that offer their special meals and are rather successful.
Doctors and dietitians unanimously state that fast food is either unhealthy or too unhealthy and strongly recommend not to eat it regularly. A great part of fast food is high-calorie, it contains many fats and little vitamins. And this first of all applies to hamburgers. It is a years-long tradition of fast food producers to make their products contain more calories. Clients find it nice to eat a cheap hamburger and feel satisfied. Indeed, healthier food supposes longer cooking and consequently higher prices.
Nevertheless, the public opinion forced even the most stubborn fast food makers start selling some healthier products along with hamburgers. McDonald’s introduced salads, juices and mineral water into the menu; the company also made its clown Ronald McDonald look more athletic. But the innovations turned out to be not really healthier as it was expected. Doctors have established that McDonald’s salads are even more unhealthy than its hamburgers. McDonald’s Caesar salad contains 18.4 g of fat while a standard cheeseburger contains just 11.5 g of fat. It is highly likely that the salad dressing is too fat and high-calorie.
Dietitians recommend to stick to three important rules in case you are fond of fast food.
1. Eat fast food not more than once a week, and better even less frequent.
2. Too fat and high-calorie products such as French fries, hamburgers and sweet soda-water are particularly dangerous for health.
3. Have good and healthy meals in the evening in case you had some fast food during the day. Never go to fast food restaurant being absolutely hungry.
American documentalist Morgan Spurlock had an experiment to find out the extent of fast food danger for people’s health. He ate double portions of McDonald’s food three times a day within a month. By the end of the experiment, he gained 12 kilograms and found out that his liver began to function worse. The experimenter also found out that his libido weakened and the level of cholesterol in blood increased. He made a documentary Super Size Me based on the experiment that was a super hit in the US .
Another American Mirab Morgan from Northern Caroline decided to conduct an experiment of her own after she saw the documentary. She regularly ate McDonald’s food within three months and lost 15 kilograms by the end of the experiment. The woman always stuck to the rule not to eat more than 1,400 calories a day. Dietitians gave rather reserved comments as concerning the experiment. They invariably insist that French fries and cheeseburgers contain not enough vitamins and minerals than the human organism needs.
Translated by Maria Gousseva
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