In the city of Warman (population 11,020), just five minutes from our farm, there are twelve restaurants of which nine are either fast food or takeout. And that doesn’t count the Burger King that just opened and McDonald’s currently under construction!
We have become a fast food nation.
We have witnessed this evolution towards fast food over the 19 years we’ve been in business. Back in 1998, 96% of our chickens were sold as whole birds, while we cut up about 4%. Now it’s the exact opposite. The Chicken McNugget has driven consumer preference towards fast meal solutions to the point that some children think chicken is a breaded, salty, spongy nugget. Read Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser to learn about the evolution of the “All-American meal”.
We all know that fast food isn’t good for us. We don’t need to debate the demerits of calories, trans fats, poor quality ingredients (how else do they make it cheap?) or the contribution of wrappers and disposable cups to our overflowing landfills.
But what we haven’t talked about is how fast food feeds our North American culture of “busyness”. Meal time has been relegated to the drive-through, chowed down in a hurry while driving to the next activity. For whom and for what?
Ask someone how they’re doing and they’ll likely reply “I’m busy.” We wear that phrase like a badge of honour— like someone’s self worth is measured by how busy they are.
I hit my “busy” wall about six years ago — running two businesses, raising kids involved in multiple extra-curricular activities, volunteering on two or three committees and dealing with some extended family issues on the side. I felt indispensable and found my self worth in being busy — “Look at all the things I’m doing and all the people I’m helping. If I don’t do it, no one will!”, I told myself. I proudly wore my “busy badge” — until I came undone and burned out.
Life is too short to live fast.
I was so busy “doing” that I wasn’t “being”. I wanted to be present in the moment, to be spontaneous, not scheduled down to the last minute. I wanted to be “enough” and be content — but I was none of those things. You’ll hear more about our journey in later posts — back to the topic at hand.
In May, I attended an Agri-Value Networking Workshop in Saskatoon, where a representative from Mintel Research noted that Canadians are the fastest eaters on the planet, spending about 69 minutes each day cooking and eating — that’s 23 minutes per meal. By contrast, and not to anyone’s surprise, the French eat slowest.
I think that in our fast-paced culture of “busyness”, the value we place on the preparation and enjoyment of food has fallen to the wayside.
Yes, I know we must work to pay the bills, kids need to get from A to B, and sometimes life throws us a curveball. But we get to choose what to say “yes” to — we have all been given the same 24 hours each day.
“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” – Annie Dillard, The Writing Life
I wonder, what are Canadians sacrificing to eat faster?
What role does the dinner table have in our relationship with others, our personal health and our planet’s well-being? What truly nourishes you?
What do you think?