Thursday, 31 May 2007

Fast Food

I spent a bit of time in Gabon in West Africa. I remember watching groups of women crouched down in front of a huge pot on an open fire, for what seemed like the entire day, cooking a stew of fish and greens and manioc. There were always several “chefs” and “souschefs” all working together to prepare the day’s meal. Everyone was part of an extended family as well, and this was a daily routine. If they were alone, they would never be able to make meals—they relied on each other to prepare sustenance.

When I think about fast food, I think about this ritual as the antithesis of fast food. What do we rely on for sustenance: Marks and Spencer’s meals for one? A number four at KFC? Fast food is something that you often get on the fly, or on your own. You often even order it through a loudspeaker or over the phone. It is fundamentally a solitary experience. I wonder if the predominance of fast food being the rule in many of our lives, rather than the exception, comes from being independent, and self-sufficent. Lord knows that I’m glad that I don’t have to crouch around a fire all day, every day, for the rest of my life. But I also think its important, at the same time as we realise how free we are, to think about the virtues and vices of what has replaced our alternatives.

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