After reading Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation, I actually called my mom to thank her for getting swept up in the whole-food movement of the 70s. I may have hated that whole-grain zucchini pizza, but the aversion to Big Macs stuck, possibly adding years to my life and saving my soul to boot. Schlosser’s muckraking 2001 treatise on the ugly underbelly of American eating has been justifiably acclaimed as a breakthrough piece of research. It’s expert journalism, connecting the early business experiments of midcentury burger entrepreneurs to today’s fast-food wasteland, strewn with underpaid teenage laborers, suicidal cattle ranchers, and E. coli-tainted meat. But it’s also oddly hopeful, chipping away point by point at the free-market determinism that drives the expansionist practices of the industry. In his epilogue Schlosser offers a wistful peek at an alternative nation of advertising-free schools, socially responsible burger joints, and herds of grass-fed, organic cattle. With proper economic pressure brought to bear on the industry, he argues, this nation could become that one sooner than we think–and we won’t need Jose Bove to pull it off. Schlosser, who more recently published Reefer Madness: Sex, Drugs, and Cheap Labor in the American Black Market, will discuss the fast-food industry and its effects on healthy eating on Wednesday, August 4, at 9:30 AM at Chicago’s Green City Market, 1750 N. Clark (on the south end of Lincoln Park). The market itself, which specializes in locally, sustainably, and organically farmed food, is open from 7 AM to 1:30 PM every Wednesday through the end of October. Call 847-835-2240 for more info.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Pamela Hanson.