At just 540 calories, KFC’s new chicken sandwich, the Double Down, makes for a modest meal. Even skimpy Hollywood movie star Megan Fox would have to down nearly five of them each day to sustain her weight of 114 pounds. But if the sodium-drenched morsel seems more tooled for casual snacking than a serious feast, it has certainly satisfied our collective appetite for outrage and controversy. In the lead-up to and aftermath of its national debut three weeks ago, the Double Down emerged as an irresistibly mediagenic, instantly polarizing force, the junk food equivalent of Sarah Palin.

 

In true maverick fashion, the Double Down replaces the plainest, least indulgent part of a traditional chicken sandwich — the bun — with the most delicious part — the chicken. At first glance, this seems like a… More…

Pull up to a Wendy’s drive-through window and you can get a Baconator and a side of fries in 131 seconds. But if you try ordering an upright bagless vacuum cleaner, you can wait forever and Wendy’s won’t be able to accommodate you — and neither can McDonald’s, KFC, Sonic, Jack in the Box, Taco Bell, or any other fast-food chain in the land. But is there any good reason that we have dozens of places where we can procure deep-fried animal parts without exiting the soothing cocoons of our automobiles but must battle for parking spots and bushwhack our way through maze-like department stores whenever we need a new pair of crew socks? Earlier this year, the Sears Holding Corporation introduced a new concept store in Joliet, Illinois called Mygofer that addresses this weird imbalance of modern life. It is the world’s first drive-through department… More…

America was booming in the Gilded Age, the era after the Civil War when robber barons hammered out vast empires and enormous fortunes were made overnight in New York, Baltimore and Philadelphia. At the same time out West, American chefs were refining their own contribution to international culture: Fast food.

Of course, they were drawing on a grand tradition: As with so much else, we can blame the ancient Romans for the original idea. As excavators have found in Pompeii, busy citizens would stand at stone counters called thermapolia and shovel down fried meat or rich stews ladeled out of in vats in the counter (an early form of steam table). Travelers even more pressed for time… More…

I imagine that one of the most universal but least discussed rites of passage is the discovery that the house you grew up in has a very distinct smell, and that it wasn’t just everyone else’s house that smelled peculiar. Recognized only on return from your first long time away, this is typically not the romantic smell of baking pies or pipe tobacco, but neither is it anything foul, like a backed-up septic tank or mildew. It’s instead something that defies description, a complex olfactoral web that is unique to the group living under one roof. Like snowflakes, no two are ever alike.

It is for this reason that I never plan to start a family where I currently reside. I live next to a Wendy’s fast food restaurant, and the smell of my home is very describable: It’s the smell of Wendy’s food cooking. The last thing I want… More…

 

So there we are en route, it’s closing in on 1 p.m., and we’re hungry.

“Let’s eat at the next rest stop,” says my husband. “I could really go for a Nathan’s hot dog or an Arby’s roast beef sandwich or maybe a Whopper with Cheese.”

His reference to these items reflects his familiarity with the culinary landscape of the New Jersey Turnpike. Depending on the rest stop, a traveler can choose from among one of two unholy trinities: Nathan’s, Burger King, and Sbarro pizza, or KFC, McDonald’s, and Arby’s. These franchises have, I presume, engaged in some high level fast food negotiation so as to divide the Turnpike turf between them. My husband’s palate happens to have a chameleon-like versatility. If we were in Paris, he would go for moules frites or sole meuniere, but given that… More…