I've known that American sizes are larger than should be for ages, but I'm still shocked every time I see the actual physical evidence of it. Can anyone really need that much soda? How can you eat that many chips? Probably the most surreal moment in the whole documentary is when Morgan Spurlock, the guy eating McDonalds for a month, goes to visit a man who is having his stomach stapled. In it, this guy is lying on his bed, a diabetic, fairly overweight, and he's telling Spurlock that he would drink four of the tubs of soda that he's currently holding.
And tub is the word I'm looking for here.
Now, maybe it's the film, maybe it's the screen, but I could've sworn that that soda tub was the size of a newborn child.
The film is worth seeing, if you haven't seen it. It's been around for a while, so I don't need to say much about it to convince you either way, but on a simple level of coherence and quality, it's a better film than pretty much everything I've seen in a cinema recently.
In accordance with the film, however, I thought I'd entertain you all with the story about my little experiment last year. After watching the documentary, it's made me think I should have put more boundaries on it, done different things, but it was only for a bit of fun, and not with a larger social issue involved. Anyhow, it was a simple experiment: give up all corporate fast food for a year. From the 1st of January, 2003, to the 1st of January, 2004, myself and one of my friends gave up everything that was served from a fastfood chain.
The reason for doing it, at the time, was that we noticed how easy it was to get this food. McDonalds red and gold signs are everywhere, just as is Pizza Hut, KFC, Burger King, Subway, and pretty much every other kind of chain fastfood place. One of them appears on pretty much every street corner when you go to get food, and it's cheap. It's easy and cheap and we noticed that this was the reason we ate it. Not because it tasted good or had little toys or because we were in a rush.
It was cheapness and ease and now it had turned into habit: a pattern followed without any real thought, until now.
But for a year, my friend and I would give all that up.
It should be said, that I never really ate corporate fast food that much. Once every two weeks was the average, I'd say. I look at that now and, after seeing Super Size Me, I know that it isn't much. But still, it was the pattern that was giving up, not the ill health. Still, even though I was not a big eater of that kind of food, it was harder than I imagined to give up.
There was, after the first month, the cravings. The I could really go for some cheap pizza or a burger... they were made worse by the fact that, if you walked anywhere not deep in residential land, you'd fine some sort of corporate food source. And even then, you could still encounter a corporate outlet, appearing as a brightly, neon lit oasis in the suburban desert. I never noticed it, but they sometimes appear in the oddest of places. Each'll be different for each area, but for me, it's the little drawer of a Subway in the middle of the factory area where I live, squashed between these two huge buildings but light in a bright yellow.
At any rate, the cravings, I found, got worse at late hours in the evening, after I had been out. Who doesn't stop by McDonalds at two am for a cheeseburger when you're walking down an empty, dark, cold road? If you're not rushing off to have sex, come down, or sleep, then that building is a beacon and draws you in, closer and closer until you find yourself munching on cookies.
It was hard to resist that cookie, and yeah, the 24 hour McDonalds that was the worse, for me. The two o'clock weekend crave is where I felt it during the year.
But the thing that really started to irritate me was how much more money and time I was spending on meals. Eating at a cafe was easily a half an hour experience, and that's if the food was something as simple as a sandwich, and the cost, no surprise to anyone, is double that of the fast food empire. But it was the time that started to wear on me as the year went along. No longer was it that I would just grab this quick bite, ten or fifteen minutes, or snag something on the way between places, or what any of the other quick reasons were that I went and ate there.
Suddenly, eating was an event. It had tables and napkins and glasses and a laminated menu, and there was no way that it would be over quickly. For the most part, this didn't bother me at all, but as the year continued, I wound find myself thinking that I could do with grabbing something to eat, and then contemplating the whole ordeal it would take to get some food, when I could just grab something quick, kill the hunger, and then continue on doing what I had planned. Now you could fight that in a couple of ways, but what I noticed was that, more often than not when this issue of time came up, I'd just shrug and go without, then grab something at home.
Anyhow, there are more stories from my year of freedom from corporate food, including the Madness of Rules, but maybe I'll write about that later, if I'm still in the mood.