Yesterday, Josh wrote to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Big Mac while recounting his own fast food experiences:
I used to have a job giving tours at the computer museum in Boston. There was a McDonalds downstairs right between us and where the Boston Tea Party ship (and annoying reenactments) were.
I used to eat at that McDonalds once a week or so. I was still a year away from going vegetarian at that point, but even then I knew McDonalds was a terrible place to get food. I’d be walking around monitoring one of the galleries or giving a tour thinking about where I was going to eat and invariably my brain would say “McDonalds!” Most days I’d give that cartoon bubble thought above my head the smackdown, but once a week or so I’d give in. I even felt sick before I got there and I knew I’d be dragging ass the rest of the day with all that grease and fat in my stomach. (I would add “death” to that list of things in my stomach, but at the time those thoughts were still in the murky unknown part of my brain trying to reach the surface.)
The one thing I always tell people after they find out that I’m vegan and say, “I could never do that!” is that I would regularly eat two (yes, two) Big Macs for dinner when I was in high school. Back then my metabolism was insane and I never topped 115 pounds. I wasn’t exactly a football player. I was barely a member of the bowling team.
As I was transitioning to vegetarianism, I had a set number of days a month where I’d have only meatless meals. During those days, I always ended up going to Subway for lunch on my “vegetarian days.” I honestly had no idea where else to go for a quick veggie meal in those days.
After going veggie, I kept up with the occasional visit to Subway and even had a few BK Veggies when I was on the road during those first few years.
Today, though, I can honestly say I eat at a fast food restaurant maybe once a year. And that would be a place like Subway during the most dire of situations (a 10pm, middle of nowhere, nothing else open, forgot to pack a Clif Bar, and have to to go the bathroom-type deal). It’s kind of funny to look at the completely different mindsets of High School Ryan and Vegan Ryan even though I still feel like I’m pretty much the same person at my core. I guess it’s like how your body regenerates all its cells every nine years — you’re technically a whole new person, yet you still feel like the same big collection of bio-junk you were back then.
Anyway, I’m glad to be done with fast food restaurants. No more dealing with the funny smell that envelopes you after you’ve been in a Subway. Or the employees not remembering to leave the mayo off of your BK Veggie (back when the burger itself was actually vegan, of course). Or the sticky floors in McDonald’s bathrooms (actually, I still deal with that since that’s the sole reason I’ll go into a McDonald’s).
But there are so many people for whom fast food is still a way of life. It seems so foreign to me now, but I remind myself that it’s just as foreign for others think about life without fast food. It’s a tough gap to bridge without devoting some time and real effort, especially since there are no vegan fast food chains to help ease the transition.
Let’s hear from some long-time vegans: when was the last time you ate at a typical fast food joint? Did you used to be a fast food junkie?