Fast Food Permeates the South

The South has a culinary tradition so rich that without it the sum of “American Cuisine” would be little more than turkey and genetically modified corn.  That is why I was so disturbed by a recent piece by Zagat entitled 40 Fast-Food Capitals.  The gist of the article was to find the 40 most fast food dominated cities and it is not a list anyone should ever want to be on.  Sadly, seven of the top 10 cities and half of the list are in the South.  Even worse ten of the 40 are in the five states that constitute the Third Coast.

I can understand a high concentration of fast food establishments in locals that depend on tourism so Orlando, Miami and Tampa you get a pass.  Jacksonville, not so fast.  Shame also cloaks the Texas cities of Lubbock, Plano and Houston.  In Alabama, Birmingham (#10) and Montgomery (#15) as well as Baton Rouge, LA (#7) also bring a dishonor to themselves.  Congratulations to Mississippi who didn’t have a single city scratch the list, the same for tourist heavy New Orleans and Mobile.

As a resident of Alabama I have taken great pride in the back-to-back football national championships and Heisman Trophy winners won by the student athletes at the University of Alabama (2009) and Auburn University (2010).  But I am equally embarrassed that Birmingham and Montgomery are in the top 15.  In Birmingham there are 73 fast food “restaurants” for every 100,000 residents and Montgomery has 62 per 100K.

This is so disheartening to me.  America, and the Third Coast especially, have no reason to be in such a hurry.  20% of us don’t even have jobs so clearly we have time to make a sandwich.  I am not saying that we abandon them altogether but we must exercise moderation.  We owe ourselves better.

It’s hard to see the draw of fast food anymore.  The two things fast food offered – speed and convenience – went away decades ago.  As has actual food at many of them.  Taco Bell was recently under fire for using unapproved genetically modified material in their taco shells and for only having 80% beef in their 100% beef taco filling.  Well Taco Bell has admitted 80% but independent labs have found that the number is closer to 36%.  Virtually everything you buy at McDonald’s and Burger King is more corn than whatever they call it – according to The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan it was revealed that the Chicken McNugget is actually 56% genetically modified corn.

And just so you know, genetically modified corn is not real corn.  GM corn has proven to be the source of two decades worth of e coli outbreaks.  GM corn, in the form of High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS), is also the root cause of the nation’s obesity epidemic as well as the increase in liver disease, pancreatic cancer and type 2 diabetes.  In this era of corrupt government it should come as no surprise that Monsanto, the company that invented GM corn, has purchased itself a rather large office space in Washington – they call it the USDA.

Think about that the next time you duck into the drive-thru.  I’m not saying don’t order, just think about it.  Here’s another short video from our pals Burger and Soda:

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Stuart in 80 Words or Less
Stuart is a celebrity chef, food activist and award-winning food writer. He penned the cookbooks Third Coast Cuisine: Recipes of the Gulf of Mexico, No Sides Needed: 34 Recipes To Simplify Life and Amigeauxs - Mexican/Creole Fusion Cuisine. He hosts two Internet cooking shows "Everyday Gourmet" and "Little Grill Big Flavor." His recipes have been featured in Current, Lagniappe, Southern Tailgater, The Kitchen Hotline and on the Cooking Channel.

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Stuart’s Honors & Awards
2015 1st Place Luck of the Irish Cook-off
2015 4th Place Downtown Cajun Cook-off
2015 2nd Place Fins' Wings & Chili Cook-off
2014 2015 4th Place LA Gumbo Cook-off
2012 Taste Award nominee for best chef (web)
2012 Finalist in the Safeway Next Chef Contest
2011 Taste Award Nominee for Little Grill Big Flavor
2011, 12 Member: Council of Media Tastemakers
2011 Judge: 29th Chef's of the Coast Cook-off
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Wing Cook-off
2011 Cooking Channel Perfect 3 Recipe Finalist
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Gumbo Cook-off
2011 Culinary Hall of Fame Member
2010 Tasty Awards Judge
2010 Judge: Bayou La Batre Gumbo Cook-off
2010 Gourmand World Cookbook Award Nominee
2010 Chef2Chef Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2010 Denay's Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2009 2nd Place Bay Area Food Bank Chef Challenge
2008 Tava: Discovery Contest Runner-up
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