Tuesday, January 18, 2011

What's Worse?

In a quaint, tiny burgh known as Los Angeles, California, a ban on new fast food spots has been put into place in the poverty/obesity stricken (how is that combo possible?) south part of the city. Naturally, debate has arisen as to whether this is a good idea. We here at F.o.t.D. say yes--kind of. A major emulsifying agent in this unholy union of being overweight and poor is, indeed, the big chain fast food restaurants. But it goes much deeper than that. The whole grab-bag of usual villians that, if badmouthed, help one score points with the green-locavore-organic set can be blamed: pop (or soda, depending on your allegiance). Corn. Ronald McDonald. But I think it's important to look further, and see that, sadly, the problem is much more than all of that. It reaches down into the issues of vanishing neighborhoods and communities, and ultimately, the act of sharing a meal being one of the most important things we do each day.

Oakland Taco Trucks

Presumably, this initiative was borne of good intentions. Of course we want people to eat less fast food. To think more about food. To make each meal count. But to ban certain fast food restaurants in certain areas is to put a small bandage on a wound that is bleeding in a lot of places, and will draw attention from the real issues of health and, just as importantly, the growing lack of meaningful meals we eat, moving said attention to issues of bowdlerization, exclusion and profiling.

and Food Trucks
The question “why can Salads ‘r Us move in across the street when Burger Time cannot?” will be asked. It could be argued that the “healthier” chains using food from questionable sources under the guise of salads and wraps (with the option to load on “bacon”, “cheese”, and other food-like products) offer far less to a society than do the clich├ęd smaller, free standing mom and pop places. I, personally, would take a hot dog from Budacki’s or a slice from Luigi’s over anything whatsoever from the Salad-on-a-Sticks of the world (yes, it exists, and at the Iowa State Fair, of all places).
Thus, maybe this ban is a bit imprudent. Perhaps we need to make more of an effort to invite the places that are, at least in our eyes, better for us in a more whole sense of the word. The cleaner the sources of their food the better--but also, the more you see the same faces in there, the more neighborhood that is built by that hot dog place on the corner, the better for the health of the community itself. Being healthier for our bodies is, of course, a concern; but shouldn’t being healthier for our neighborhoods and souls be as well?

Homemade Sausage in Budapest