It may be fast, but it might not be food

Frank on food

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By FRANK CHLUMSKY

When it comes to fast food, keep in mind the old proverb: "Better the devil that you know than the devil you don't know."

Back in the late 1960s, fresh out of cooking school and full of conviction (and myself), I brashly renounced my membership in a prestigious chef's organization when I learned that our next monthly meeting was going to be held at (of all places!) McDonald's.

Now some might see that as a bit of hubris on my part. Fast food, after all, is part of the American fabric, and familiar names like McDonald's and Burger King, as well as Taco Bell, KFC, etc. ad infinitum seem certain to remain so. I, too, as I've acknowledged in this column, have a fondness for (some) fast food. But the fast food I eat has to be?#34;and is?#34;real food; I've learned that what you see isn't always what you get. The older I get the more convinced I become that my initial cynicism of the fast food industry is correct, and you won't see me at the counters of any of these corporate giants. Hubris? Wait until you see Super Size Me.

Super Size Me, Morgan Spurlock's scathingly funny, often disturbing indictment of the fast food industry (and McDonald's in particular) validates my long-held view of fast food.

In this critical documentary, Spurlock, who lives with a vegan chef, shows what happened to him after he decided to eat nothing but McDonald's meals (ordering everything from the menu at least once) three times a day, with a minimum of exercise, for 30 straight days. Throughout the film he's monitored by a cardiologist, gastroenterologist and nutritionist, all of whom predict little change in his overall good health except for some weight gain (which amounted to 25 pounds).

No one expected the scale of what actually did happen, including a 65-point rise in his cholesterol, severe addiction to carbohydrates, sexual dysfunction, and life-threatening liver damage on a par with that of extreme binge drinking. After 20 days doctors warned that he was like a man on the verge of a heart attack and urged him to stop the experiment.

My favorite part of the film is the puzzling experiment called "The Smoking Fry" that's found in the bonus material of the DVD. Various items from the McDonald's menu, such as a Big Mac and an order of fries, are placed in glass jars and left to decompose. After 10 weeks the items are full of mold and oozing all sorts of odious material, except the pristine looking fries, which have not changed at all. Real food, indeed.

Another bonus is the extensive interview with Eric Schlosser, author of the best selling Fast Food Nation, in which he describes the history of fast food and points out that consumers are painfully unaware of the amount of processed foods they're getting from the fast food industry.

Rent this movie. I highly recommend it. And I'm sure you'll agree that when it comes to fast food: Better the devil you know than the devil you don't.

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