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Sunday, January 08, 2012

The Death of Fast Food

Cold War Era Food
Over the hurried, inexorable, and giddy gallop towards the modern era Americans were convinced by advertisers that cooking was just not worth the effort. We were too busy to cook. We had better things to do with our precious “free time.” We were given time-saving choices when it came to meals so there was no longer any reason to “slave over a hot stove” (I’m almost certain that expression was created by advertisers).  I can’t remember what was supposed to be so thrilling in our lives that didn’t allow us to prepare our own food but it must have been wonderful.

Things are changing in the mentality of modern Americans. Cooking shows air 24 hours a day. Chefs are celebrities.  As I have often said, internet sites like YouTube have cooking video instructions coming out of their ears so the Italian grandmother you never had is available to walk you through even the most harrowingly complicated menus. If you have any doubt concerning this tectonic shift of attitudes I propose that you do a Google search of any sort of food that comes to mind.  Ironically, in a search for chicken pot pie*—the former gold standard of crap, pre-prepared food—the first things to come up in the queue are home-made versions.

*The chicken pot pie was a fantastic idea on paper but its execution was nearly that—an execution—for millions of American children during the 1960’s. The chicken pot pie was an individual serving of chicken-related matter (mostly ears, feet, and chicken toe nails) that was wrapped in a pie crust and housed in an aluminum alloy pie pan.

The pies came frozen from the super market and took approximately one school term to defrost. To serve you simply placed the chicken pot pie in the oven at 1,900 degrees at the beginning of the Tom & Jerry cartoons around 3 in the afternoon and the pie would be done later that evening during Green Acres. Chicken pot pies were delicious, so I have been told. The problem was that they took so long to cook that you would be practically fainting from hunger by the time they were ready. I’m sure I’m not the only kid who completely scorched his entire digestive track eating a pot pie while it was bubbling hot. It was like eating chicken-flavored lava.

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