Page 1 of 5To say I crave Taco Bell is a grave understatement.
There are days where it’s all I think about. A Nachos Supreme: the heat of liquid cheese poured over zesty taco meat, extra-smooth refried beans and ever-so-crunchy tortilla chips then topped with sour cream and tomatoes. Add on a side of rice and a side beans with extra cheese that I would mix together with my spork and eat slowly, savoring each bite. Throughout high school and undergrad, I would eat these delectable, cheap items daily, if not more often.
But I haven’t eaten Taco Bell since August 11, 2007 when my sister-in-law, husband, and I split a Beef Mexi-Melt for a late night snack before going on a 6 am fishing charter. All three of us, who usually have sea legs, spend more time feeding the fish than hooking them. I’m pretty positive we grossed out everyone on the boat at some point, even the captain who’s seen everything.
And since that fateful day Taco Bell and I are ex’s--with a lot of baggage.
Around the same time I started reading food writing, and one of the most popular non-fiction books on the best-seller’s list was Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser. After learning about the mistreatment of animals and workers, the industrialization of food, and the growing health epidemics connected with fast food, I gave up not only Taco Bell but also all fast food. (I must admit I do eat delivery pizza but it needs to come from a local business. Also, I’m a fan of Chipotle, who does more than attempts to respect animals, workers, and the environment. But these aren’t fast food places, right? There’s no drive-thru…)
When I began my fast food fast, I noticed I felt a lot less sluggish and I lost a lot of unnecessary weight. I cared where my food came from and about the people who were making it. And most of all I started cooking, which gave me the power to make my own fast food. I had the control to invent a healthy, local foods version of a Big Mac or develop recipes I knew I could start and eat within 20 minutes.
While I’m proud to say that I haven’t had Taco Bell in almost four years and that I can grill Quarter-Pounders that would turn a McDonald’s junkie straight-edge, I miss fast food. I know if I ever ate a Nachos Supreme, instantly, I would feel the guilt and dirty-ness of someone who had sex with an ex. But I know, also, that first bite would feel so familiar, so comforting.
It’s these conflicting feelings that led me to this issue of From Plate to Palate and the issue of fast food in our culture. How do some of us negotiate the nostalgia of Mickey D’s chicken nuggets with our beliefs that good food is slow food? What causes our distaste of fast food? What fosters our love of it?
Arielle Greenberg launches the issue with a thought-provoking reflection on the political, ethical, and health implications of fast food. Through a series of vignettes, Anna Kauffman beautifully layers humor with emotional sincerity in her piece, which details her 20-year love affair with fast food and the last day of their acquaintance. A contributor I’m extremely excited to welcome aboard Connotation Press is Lin-z Tello, a former student of mine who wrote awesome essays in our food-themed composition class. In her piece, Lin-z transforms the high sodium Chick-Fil-A chicken sandwich into a homemade treat. And rounding out the issue, Arlan Hess redefines fast food and her love of it in “Behold, The Microwave.” It’s with great respect for these food writers and their exceptional contributions that I welcome you to From Plate to Palate’s drive thru window. What would you like fries with that?
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