A Plea for the Art of Fast Food, Or: Why 'Bad' Food Is Good, Damn It

Photo by Don
A goddamn masterpiece

Down here in Weekly World, LP and I are desk neighbors, so that means that every time I decide to eat "badly" for lunch (my quotes, not hers), I get an earful; it's kind of endearing, really. A few (dozen) chicken nuggets? Yup. A McDonald's cheeseburger? Mmm-hmm. That one time I ate Hot Cheetos with chopsticks? Oh, yeah (though, in her defense, that might've been because I was eating them with chopsticks).

Don't get even me (her) started about my drinking of Red Bulls.

And with the rise of the organic/local/non-GMO/free-range/sustainably-farmed-and-fished dining movement, I'm sure lots of people like me are getting perfectly well-meaning semi-lectures from people like LP.

Well, this is for the me-types. Say it with me: It's perfectly okay to like "bad" food. You don't have to feel guilty. Bad food is perfectly, absolutely fine.

Yes, I've heard the arguments against bad food, and you know what? I agree with most of them. McDonalds is horrible for me! If I drink too much taurine, I probably will die early! The industrial farming complex? One of the worst things you could tacitly support!

And yes, there are plenty of not-so-horrible alternative options. Every time I make a Del Taco run, I could just head over to the kebab place down the street. But you know what? Sometimes I just want a goddamn cheeseburger without any wait or fuss. Not every meal needs to be a perfect little pocket of artisanal ingredients and techniques. Really, I'm going to be eating the food at my desk anyway, so it's kind of sad to get something nice and not even pay attention to 80 percent of the meal.

And then there's the nostalgia. Some of my earliest good food memories are bad-food-related. My dad used to bring home prison chicken nuggets to cook for me (thanks, Santa Clara Department of Corrections). He used to get excited over the 89-cent hamburgers and 99-cent cheeseburgers at McD's. In elementary school, I used to eat crushed bag ramen dry. In high school? I ate a bag of Hot Cheetos a day. As good as an alternative meal could be, ain't nothing going to beat those memories.

Sometimes, and you LP-types might have to deal with this, bad food is just good. It's the visceral mix of corporately timed and portioned oil, fat, salt and whatever crack cocaine that's sprinkled in there. Life is short, and there's no point completely withholding something from yourself to live longer if it's something you love. I'm not saying eat it every day (don't eat it every day), but everything in moderation, y'know?

Animal fries? Horrible for you, but amazing. McDoubles? Yeah, they're cheap, and they look kind of dumpy, but people like 'em, and you know what? That's okay.

Yeah, it's a lot of "bad" food, but it's good, so go ahead and like it -- just don't kill yourself.

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You can also follow Charles Lam on Twitter @charlesnlam. He's less sardonic there, we swear.

My Voice Nation Help

Anyone condescending to someone else for their food choice is a tool, plain and simple.  Whether it's because they're an activist or are expressing concern for your health, it's simply obnoxious.  You should eat whatever you want.  Unless of course, you are eating Taco Bell.

Kit Hope
Kit Hope

I love me some Chili Fritos.

20ftjesus topcommenter

I'm siding with LP on this one:  No one wants to smell that Del Taco crap you left open on your desk all afternoon. 

JBinOC topcommenter

This is a good post (no surprise, given the author).  

There's that old saying, "You're gonna die anyway."  It's true.  Even when adapted to acknowledge, "You're gonna die miserably, anyway."  For example, you can eat foods rich in selenium, but the likelihood is, you're still going to develop an enlarged prostate -- or prostate cancer -- if you reach age 80.  Whether it's caused by environmental demons or carcinogens, I don't know.  But whether you have a Quarter Pounder or yellowfin tuna every day, your destiny might still be the same. 

Charles, I think you need to pass by that McDonalds and treat yourself to a Sausage McMuffin with Egg one day this week.  I might be right in front of you in line.  And also take LP to Native Foods at The Camp and do a post about it, like Javier and that cute Asian gal did a few years ago. 

JBinOC topcommenter

Was your dad a guard at the prison, or an inmate?


HEAR HEAR!!!!!!!

Fantastic piece Mr. Lam.


I'm sure this is just fun, harmless link-bait but I'm a little disappointed in my fair OC Weekly for this one. 


@JBinOC  You're too kind, JBin. McMuffins might be one of my favorite all time foods.


@JBinOC  A cook! I don't know if I'd eat prison smuggled chicken nuggets.

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