I read Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation several years ago and loved it. It opened my eyes to specific problems in the fast food industry. Chew On This is the teenage version of that book, and I bought a class set to teach to 8th graders next month. It should be fun, and I think they’ll like it, mainly because of the gross-out stuff.
My favorite part of the book is the history of the key players. Like the computer industry, I love reading about how these world-changing companies were started by some key personalities. Ray Kroc is the Steve Jobs of hamburgers.
Best parts: history of the industry, slaughterhouse descriptions, advertising campaigns
Weakest parts: too much time with the Yupiks in Alaska, the blow-by-blow account of one girl getting a soda machine removed from school, and the Edible Schoolyard narrative. Kids will skip over these dull parts, and I wanted to as well.
My main criticism of this book (and other books and articles that attack the power of big companies over what people buy/eat/consume) is that they ignore the other “forces” out there that attempt to manipulate culture. Where are the outcries about what TV shows teenagers watch, about the popular music with violent or sexual lyrics, about over-protective parents who try to be buddies over mothers and fathers, or about allowing kids to have three televisions, cell phones, and any other electronic device they whine loudly enough for? The Saw series of movies and the Kim Kardashians provide a generational numbness that disturbs and frightens me more than the methylphenylglycidate in strawberry shakes. These produce something far worse than overweight teenagers with pre-adult onset diabetes; they produce a morally anemic, self-serving, and self-obsessed generation unable to look beyond their digital navels.
I’d take the fat kid any day.