Monthly Archives: November 2006

Fast Food Nation Movie Review

The wife and I went out to see Fast Food Nation last Friday. (Date night! Exciting! Actually, it was a matinee. It’s cheaper you know.) I went having read the book and mostly with the skewed understanding that there was no way they would ever be able to cover all that material in a movie. I also have read plenty of other books about immigration, peak oil, meatpacking and the Omnivore’s Dilemma. My wife hasn’t read Fast Food Nation and is oblivious to most of the Omnivore’s Dilemma, save for the rantings and ravings of this fat guy. It should be an interesting study in different perspectives. You have my fat guy pledge that we did not collaborate in any way on these reviews. I wrote mine. She wrote hers. Then I copied them into the blog browser. The only thing I changed were words that might have been spelled wrong or grammar errors.

My take
I was mostly pleased with the movie. They took the part of the book with the ability to most directly impact an average consumer and showed it. But they didn’t just show it (the meat) but also the tentacles surrounding and feeding it.

The problem I have is that they focused on a few of the tentacles so much that they starved some of the other tentacles. I thought these tentacles had the potential for a larger impact. The primary focus of the movie was on the meatpacking industry and it’s exploitation of illegal workers and feedlots for their cattle. They touched just slightly on other aspects of the fast food industry such as low paid workers, artificial flavorings, allegiance to the car and contribution to sprawl. I think the areas that weren’t touched are the areas that have the most potential for an education impact. The problem is that they have the smallest chance of having an impact on the general public. Only after someone takes off the initial large curtain surrounding the meatingpacking industry can they then throw off these other smaller curtains.

Perhaps the movie is aimed at the general person who hasn’t pulled back the first curtain yet, and if so I think the movie succeeds wonderfully in that regard. But I think the movie doesn’t really reflect the Fast Food Nation the way the book does. I thought perhaps a more apt title for the movie would be something related to the meat packing biz or Fast Food Hamburger or something.

I also thought the college round table for environmental action was a little strange. It didn’t really seem to have a point. Perhaps it was trying to suggest to the viewer that when you sit around and talk about what you want to do nothing gets done. You need to do something actionable. In the movie they tried to release the cows from the feedlots. In real life you can do something actionable by avoiding these places and changing your eating habits. Perhaps that was the moral, and if so, it certainly wasn’t all that clear. I did like Ethan Hawke’s part in the movie and his role in this environmental action group’s plans.

For me personally, reading the chapter about artificial flavorings totally changed the way I looked at food in general, not just fast food. But in the movie they barely touched on this subject. Perhaps it’s too difficult to look at artificial flavorings and consciously think about how much of the food you are eating doesn’t really taste like it tastes to you. It has simply had flavorings added to it so that chemically your mind thinks it’s eating something it isn’t. To me, this manipulation of the chemical characteristics of the human brain is totally wrong. Just completely wrong. And it caused me to become a cynic and completely question the whole thing. Is that sauce on the McRib really BBQ sauce or someone’s amalgaram of liquid like things colored brown and injected with BBQ flavoring? Is that all BBQ sauce in general is? What’s real anymore? How do I know that any sauce I buy is really the way that sauce tastes if artificial flavorings have been added? And shouldn’t the flavors be listed on the side so you know what they are? If you are dipping something into a sauce packet, and in order for the sauce to taste like Sweet and Sour Sauce they added sweet and sour flavorings to it wouldn’t you want to know that? As opposed to having actual sweet and sour sauce like is available at a Chinese restaurant that’s the “real” sauce? Hell, is that stuff even real sweet and sour sauce? I don’t know. Who knows what’s real anymore. My mind is just swimming on this simple subject.

All in all, I think the movie succeeded like Inconvenient Truth succeeded. It brings an issue that is mostly a cult/niche issue to the mainstream. And that’s important. When things go mainstream they will lose some of their details and also some of their forcefulness. It’s kind of a requirement to being mainstream. But that’s OK if the message stays the same, and the message here stayed the same. I would recommend that people go watch it. And I would recommend that you read the book, so you can get the rest of the story.

Her take

I thought “Fast Food Nation” was going to be a lot like “Supersize Me”. While the later of the two did disgust me, “Fast Food Nation” actually changed my entire view of food. “Supersize Me”, after all, was not that realistic. I mean, am I really going to eat at McDonalds EVERY single meal for a month and if the employee asks me if I want it supersized will I say “yes”? HECK NO!!!!! So, although “Supersize Me” was an informative documentary, it didn’t deter me from eating at the fast food chains.

Although “Fast Food Nation” had many different plots and didn’t really develop a strong story line, it got its message through to me. I am not one to read the newspaper or go hunting for information on the internet like my husband does. Therefore, most of my information comes second hand-through my family and friends-and I am left to make my own opinion. Since typically nothing really riles me up, I was shocked at the impact of this movie. I did not realize the amount of crap that goes into a burger. And when I say this, I mean it both literally and figuratively. When I go to McDonalds, I think to myself, “what can I get for the cheapest price so that my husband will not notice any money missing from the piggy bank?”. Now that I know what goes into making the burger, that thought literally makes me want to throw up. The movie shows people from Mexico being smuggled into the United States to live the “American Dream”. 10-15 people are housed up in a motel room trying to find a halfway decent job. Since meat companies don’t give a crap (pun intended) about employees, they hire these illegal immigrants. The immigrants are excited to be working there because they make more in one day than they make in an entire month in Mexico . However, after understanding how crappy the job is, they get into drugs to make the situation more tolerable. They sleep with other employees to get a better position within the plant and they are made to hurry so fast to get the job done that they get sloppy with their work. Not only do they get crap (literally) in the meat, but they become careless and get limbs cut off. Then the meat company finds any reason they can to make the employee responsible for the accident so that they can fire them and not have to pay the medical expenses. And as if this isn’t enough to make the viewer disturbed, they show the “big wigs” at the company that sells the meat being ok with all of it because they don’t want to loose their jobs. They know it is morally wrong to sell meat that is made under such conditions, but they don’t care because it is all about the bottom line. They need to produce a cheap burger to the public and they need to keep their job. Hence, the Fast Food Nation that we live in.

So, the next time you go to McDonald’s and order off the dollar menu, think about what went into making a DOLLAR burger. Workers at the meat plant making them that are mistreated and underpaid, corporate people that only care about the price of the burger and their job and the all around quality of the meat. Do you really want to support this? The more we order from these places, the more we promote what they are doing. I know I don’t want to promote this and I want to promote the true “American Dream”.

FGLB & FGLB’s wife



Fun with search engines

I always enjoy looking at the search engine entries that people use to find my blog. I usually wouldn’t have a reason to post about this, but I found today’s entries especially funny.

I hope the people searching for “fat guy clothes” and a “fat guy eating a sandwich” were successful with their searches.

For the person looking for “an old love song with guy riding a bike” let me know what you find in your search. I’m curious what kind of love song would have a guy riding a bike. And further more, was the guy fat and was it a bicycle? If so I’ll need to get a copy of that song. It can be my anthem, not unlike the Eye of the Tiger was back in the 80s.

“Risin’ up, back on the street
Did my time, took my chances
Went the distance, now I’m back on my feet
Just a man and his will to survive

So many times, it happens too fast
You change your passion for glory
Don’t lose your grip on the dreams of the past
You must fight just to keep them alive”

For the person looking for the “bannana hammock fat guy”; I can only hope you found what you were looking for without too many strange website visits. If you turn those words around it appears as though you were looking for a fat guy with a banana hammock. Dear God, why? Of all things holy that is not something that should probably be available easily via Google. Trust me, I see it in the mirror. This probably shouldn’t be either though. Gotta love the internet.

(If you are unsure what a banana hammock is follow the link, but you are warned. It is pretty safe for work though.)


In the kitchen with fatty

Last night I finished up what was left of the bones from the Thanksgiving turkey. I boiled them up with some spices and aromatics and made a ton of broth. I mean, a ton. I wasn’t expecting it to be as much as I ended up with, but that’s OK. After some quick rearranging in the freezer we’re OK. Of course, I had to move up the preparation for turkey soup because I didn’t have enough room in the freezer for all the broth, but that’s no trouble, homemade soup is the best.

The shear volume of turkey meat that came off the bones was amazing. I thought I had done a good job picking the meat off the bones, but I filled up a bowl with more than enough meat to use in the soup, even without using some of the other leftover meat. I was shocked. Usually when I do this with a chicken there isn’t much meat leftover. I guess turkeys have a little more hidden meat than a chicken. Gobble Gobble

Anyway, on to another subject. I’ve had some questions about the cracker recipe so I thought I would post it up here. What the heck. Maybe it will inspire others to make crackers. I made two different flavors and here are the recipes for both. These recipes are from the March/April 1990 Cooking Light magazine. Page 114.

Vegetable Crisps

3 tbls dried sweet pepper flakes

2 tbls dried celery flakes

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper (I went bad here because I read this to be 1 tbls, and then doubled it.)

1.5 cups AP flour

.5 cup whole wheat flou

2 tbls sugar

1 tsp dried oregano

.5 tsp baking soda

.5 tsp salt

.5 tsp chicken bouillon granules

.25 cup vegetable shortening

.5 cup warm water

Cooking spray

Position knife blade in food processor bowl, add first 3 ingredients. Process 15 seconds. Add AP flour and next 8 ingredients; process until dough leaves sides of bowl and forms a ball. Divide dough in half, shaping each half into a ball; cover and let rest for 10 minutes.

Roll 1 portion into a 13.5 x 12 inch paper thin rectangle on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Score dough by making 7 lengthwise cuts and 8 crosswise cuts. Prick entire surface with a fork.

Back at 350 for 15 minutes or until crisp. Remove from pans; cool completely on wire racks. Separate into crackers. Repeat procedure with remaining dough. Store in airtight container. Makes 12 dozen. (no it doesn’t)

Per mag; 10 calories per cracker.

Spicy Cheese Crackers

1 cup AP flour

.5 cup yellow corn meal

.5 tsp salt

.25 tsp baking soda

.25 tsp ground red pepper

.125 tsp ground cumin (1/8 tsp)

2 tbls sharp cheddar

.5 cup low-fat buttermilk

2 tbls vegetable oil

Cooking spray

Combine first 6 ingredients in a bowl; stir well. Stir in cheese. Add buttermilk and oil; stir until dry ingredients are moistened.

Divide dough in half shaping each half into a ball. Roll 1 ball into an 11×9 inch paper thin rectangle on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Score dough by making 8 lengthwise cuts and 10 crosswise cuts. Prick entire surface liberally with a fork.

Bank at 350 for 20 minutes or until crisp and lightly browned. Remove from pans; cool completely on wire racks. Separate into individual crackers. Repeat procedure with remaining half of dough. Store in an airtight container. Yield:16.5 dozen.

Per mag; 6 calories each.



Local Food Store

Lately I’ve been trying to weigh the popularity of a retail store here in town where the emphasis would be on food products with a local flair. These would include items grown or raised locally, as well as products produced locally or possibly even products that are produced by local companies.

I wouldn’t have any problems obtaining beef, chicken, turkey, pork, eggs or excess produce to sell. I can get all these products from local farmers, although I worry about cutting into their sales with a competing product, compared to a farmers market. I think we could both co-exist since not all consumers will want to work any harder than to just stop at a store and buy something. Plus, they would be able to wholesale to me and retail to people at the market. So I think there is enough room there.

We have a rather large organic spice co-op (with a wholesale arm) in this area so I could use their products to resell spices. The spices wouldn’t obviously be local, but they would be organic and from a company based here locally.

I also could procure some pastured milk in glass jars from hormone and antibiotic free cows. This milk comes from Missouri, which may be too far for this endeavor. I have not been able to find any reasonably local cheeses, yogurts or butter. (Raw milk sales are still illegal here in Iowa and I haven’t found a cow share program yet) I could purchase these items from some places in Wisconsin, but I haven’t decided if that is too far yet or not. And even if I did I am certain they won’t come from pastured cows if I used the places I’m aware of.

Here locally we have plenty of wineries that make wine, as well as quite a few that actually grow the grapes they use to make the wine. We have little brewers that I could purchase beer products from to sell. And of course we have a ton of places that make jams, jellies, honey, salsa and other assorted items, perhaps not all from local ingredients, but at least made close to home. There are also quite a few places around that sell locally grown popcorn (have you had local popcorn yet? It is AMAZING!) and other assorted items like that.

So now I’m wondering if I wanted to do this how much would it mess up my plans that I laid out here recently for preparations financially after Peak Oil? How far in terms of miles should I extend the reach out for something to be included at the store for sale? How the heck would I get the money to do something like this? Could this possibly be viable after Peak Oil as a potential profession for me and a source of income for the family? And on top of this already large pile of questions; would it work here? Are people here ready to support this? And are there enough people here to support this niche store?

Even though you can build a baseball field in a corn field and wait for people to come I’m not sure if the market here is ready for a store that sells only local items, especially in the food industry when almost all buying decisions are made based on price and convenience.


Eating a local Thanksgiving

Well, Thanksgiving has come and gone and with it the 100 mile Thanksgiving challenge is over. My in-laws hosted us for Thanksgiving this year, along with my grandmother in law and 2 foreign students who were at the local university over the holiday weekend. I brought all the food and prepared most of it so we could make sure to eat as locally as possible. Everything turned out great. We had turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, sweet potatoes, stuffing, butternut squash, green beans all made from local ingredients. We also had pumpkin pie, mincemeat pie and a lettuce salad that weren’t local but were included in the meal. (I didn’t partake in these to maintain my local participation. But I also don’t like any of them anyway so it wasn’t really a hardship for me either.)

We picked up the turkey 2 days before Thanksgiving from a local farmer who grew them free range and organically. I had orignally wanted to brine it but capitulated to the group over concerns of excess salt in the meal. We did use a roasting bag and the turkey out just fine, although slightly overcooked because I lost track of time doing everything in the kitchen. A light covering of olive oil and paprika gave the skin a nice brown with a fairly decent crunch.

There were a few parts of the meal that weren’t local though so I have to use this paragraph to list them. I used some celery in the stuffing that wasn’t local. (In my defense, only 1 time EVER have I even been able to buy celery at the farmer’s markets here. I hear it’s hard to grow.) I also used a little brown sugar and a smattering of marshmallows on the sweet potatoes. And I had to use canned chicken broth. I thought I had some packed away in the freezer but I couldn’t find it. After I get done with the turkey carcass though I’ll have plenty of broth in the freezer. But other than that everything was made by me or from local ingrediants, with the exception of spices and oils.

Some interesting tidbits about the meal.

If you’ll notice on the blue plate there are some stuffin’ muffins. This was only my second attempt at these and they turned out very, very good. In fact, I’ve been eating the leftover ones for breakfast the past few days. I have never seen a homemade stuffing recipe that called for eggs as a binding ingredients to hold all the pieces together, but I would recommend using them for the muffins. My first attempt was extremely crumbly and the problem seemed to be mostly rectified on this try. I linked to a recipe above from Rachael Ray, but I didn’t use that recipe. Too fancy. I just used a plain old stuffing recipe.

Lesson learned for the future. A 17 pound turkey is huge. And when you are eating with my wife’s family and not mine there is way, way more leftover than you expect. Difference in families I guess. Although I have been able to not have turkey for every single meal so far.

The giblets weren’t included in the gravy by popular vote of the meal participants. I will be enjoying them soon though so I can enjoy some of the fantastic health benefits of liver.

I enjoy the squash recipe that I made at Thanksgiving so much I thought I would share it. I’ve probably made this recipe 3 or 4 times already this fall. This is probably an actual recipe, but I haven’t seen it if it is. I just made this up one day and it turned out great so I keep doing it.

Cut 1-2 butternut squash into roughly evenly sized cubes. Place in casserole dish.

Dice up 1/2 medium red onion (adjust to your taste) and place on top of squash.

Sprinkle approx 2 tablespoons Rosemary onto your cutting board. Use a meat hammer to “crush” the Rosemary. Don’t swing the hammer far or you’ll send Rosemary flying all over the kitchen. Sprinkle crushed Rosemary over the top of squash/red onion mixture.

Apply 2 tablespoons butter to the top of the casserole dish in 4 roughly even pats. Salt and pepper to taste.

Bake at 350 until squash reaches your desired doneness level. I prefer it to be quite mushy, almost like boiled potatoes. This usually takes about 45 minutes or so. I would recommend that you stir the mixture about every 10-15 minutes to help everything get evenly coated with rosemary, butter and onions.

Put on your plate and enjoy! It should have a sweet taste to it. Makes a great side dish.

Without further ado, here are the pictures. As usual, please excuse the fact that I am a horrible photographer.

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River Museum

We went on a little trip this past weekend.  You can read about it over here.


Fattie want a cracker?

This Sunday boy #1 (this is how I refer to my kids. I can’t remember their names until about the 5th try anymore so I just call them #1 and #2. Parents reading this know what I mean.) and I decided to make some crackers from scratch. Yes, from scratch. Really. It was kind of a strange endeavor seeing as how crackers are pretty cheap to buy, certainly tasty and definitely a lot easier to buy than make, but I wanted to see how it was to make them and he wanted some crackers so we went at it.

And it wasn’t so bad. Most of the crackers on the edges got burnt while they ones on the inside turned out about right. On top of that they don’t have nearly enough flavor. But, on the flip side they are also way, way less salty and didn’t have any nasty fats in them. Just fats that I’m OK with.

The little guy stayed interested until we put the first batch in the oven and up until the second batch was getting prepped and then he lost interest and moved on. At least until it was time to taste the crackers. Then it was like he had never left. He had a good time dumping all the items together and watching the mixer run. And he had a good time using the rolling pin to roll out the dough. I have a feeling if there is a next time he’ll be willing to help again.

For some reason the dough was extremely hard to get rolled out to the proper depth across the whole pan. Maybe because I’m not much of a baker or perhaps because it was just too stiff. But either way, I think that contributed to some of the problems with the cooking. By the time I got to the fourth batch I had started to separate the dough into multiple balls on the pan to get the dough rolled out and that seemed to help. Perhaps if we do it again I’ll start out that way and see how it goes.

That’s the question though, will we do it again? I’m not sure. I have to figure out how to infuse the crackers with more flavor next time. I made veggie crackers that had a ton of heat from the pepper, but not much else to them. And the cheese crackers didn’t have any cheese flavor at all. (They were made with real cheese though just like the fancy brands!!) Perhaps I’ll add some powdered cheese flavor next time around. There is certainly room to experiment in the future if I decide to try to tackle this again.

No pictures because they just aren’t picture worthy at this point.

You know, the crackers may not have much flavor, but I bet they would be a great delivery device for some cheese dip or spinach/artichoke dip or possibly even some hummus. Hmmm…