If you’re a fast-food junkie like me, November 16 is going to be a whopper of a day. Why? Because it’s National Fast Food Day, that’s why, and I can hardly wait to eat fresh, think outside the bun, and go on a hunt for some finger-lickin’ good fast food.
All puns aside, there really is a National Fast Food Day. It’s observed annually on November 16. Who created it or when is not clear, but we do know the term ‘fast food’ was first recognized in the Merriam-Webster dictionary 1951.
After World War II ended, the U.S. shifted into high gear. Quick and fast became the drumbeat of society. Everyone wanted housing, new cars, and jobs right now! America, after years of an economic depression and warfare, was on the move. By the 1950s, drive-thru and fast-order restaurants had begun to spring up all around the country.
Today, fast food restaurants, many of which are U.S. branded operations, can be found in over 100 countries worldwide. With over 300,000 fast food establishments in the U.S. generating close to $192 billion in sales in 2014, the United States is the undisputed king of the fast food industry. There’s hardly a town, village, or stretch of a major highway that doesn’t have a familiar fast-food logo atop a sign for all to see.
Although the term ‘fast food’ may be relatively new, the concept dates back to the Roman times when street stands called “thermopoliums” served up steaming hot sausages, bread and wine to hungry, toga-clad customers on the go. Fast forward a thousand years to 1867 and the first American fast food restaurant, a hot dog stand, opened on Coney Island.
Then in 1955, a mixer salesman named Ray Kroc wondered why two brothers named McDonald had purchased 5 of his milk-shake mixers for their small hamburger joint. He visited their site in San Bernardino, California, liked what he saw, and decided then and there to go into the fast food business. The rest, as they say, is history.
Besides getting your food quickly, the biggest draw in fast food dining has been the relatively low cost. I can remember 15-cent hamburgers, 10-cent fries and 5-cent cokes from my high school days. Inflation has upped those prices since then of course, but budget-menus at most fast food restaurants still offer 99-cent items like hamburgers and fries.
National Fast Food Day is really a celebration of foods like hamburgers, fries, tacos, pizza, hot dog, onion rings and chicken served as nuggets or deep fried or between two buns. Are these tasty, gourmet delights good for us? Maybe not, if eaten in excess, but boy…they sure taste good!