From home-cooked meals to fast food: how the eating out script has flipped

Since moving away from home in India, this writer reflects on how fast food has changed their eating habits in their busy university life.

Anuska Banerjee
20th November 2023
Image source: Pixabay, geralt.
Earlier on, eating out was an experience that I looked forward to with bated breath; because grabbing Dominos was reserved solely for birthdays and anniversaries. Pizza wasn't ‘just food’, it meant ‘pay-day’, it meant ‘celebration’.

With time, that has changed. Modernisation now implies big adverts of fast food chains, making life for busy office-goers a lot more convenient. Now, getting a cheeseburger after school has become a norm. It is quick, easy, “fast” food. 

Most common foods we eat today, especially in big cities are on-the-go meals, with sandwiches being the most popular. Food is a product of culture. Fast food: an invention to cope with the fast-track life of cities.

Now, getting a cheeseburger after school has become a norm. It is quick, easy, “fast” food

However, my relationship with food has always been personal, because food holds memories. Growing up in India, my taste-buds are naturally quite demanding, having been indulged in the delectability of rich, yummy home-cooked goodness filled with love and nourishment.

My most cherished memories surround food; the ‘chicken curry’ made by my grandma which filled my soul after a long day. Spicy ‘pani-puri’ and other street food form an indelible part of my childhood. Understandably so then, food is an emotion for me. Back home, I remember being in actual tears because I was fed up of eating the same old lentil-rice; I wanted ‘tacos’, but mum refused.

My relationship with food has always been personal, because food holds memories.

It has been more than a month since I have moved to the UK for university. I, too, now consume fast food regularly. I get a burger when I am out for the whole day, and I never forget my diet-pepsi.

‘Fast-food’ has successfully fooled us into believing that it isn't the poster-child for ‘junk’ like our parents once told us; it has been revolutionized, now keeping in mind all those healthy, calorie-counting busy millennials who have very little time and energy at the end of the day to cook in, but also don’t want the added guilt that earlier ensued, the moment you swiped your card at a fast food till.

I am left with zero motivation and cooking is just another of the tasks on my long list at the end of the day. We are all collectively stuck in an indefinite race, and now, getting chicken nuggets on a Monday morning, simply because I can, is the quickest way for me to feel some extent of agency in life.

It is truly disheartening but I wish the child who had been ‘craving’ to eat-out could see me now. I don’t want tacos for dinner anymore, I want my mum’s bland lentil curry which satiated my hunger after an exhausting day, way better than spending 20 pounds at Burger King ever does. 

Life has become as fast as a bullet train now, and fast food is its trusty sidekick. 

Fast food has shaken my relationship with ‘eating out’. I do it because it is convenient, not because I love it, like I used to. Perhaps, amidst the ‘‘fast” availability of chips and cola, the faint voice in the back of my head pointing out the preservatives loaded in my dinner, gets stifled.

Or, I simply choose to deliberately ignore it, even though I know what it wants: it simply craves for a plate of food that makes my heart ‘full’. And while I am thankful that the restaurant experience isn't simply a luxury anymore, the fact that eating out is more of a socialising event for young people, I also see how fast food has ruined the very lure of wanting to ‘eat out’. Life has become as fast as a bullet train now, and fast food is its trusty sidekick. 

It is the best aid for a multi-tasker in our busy schedules; but kids these days will never have the memories with food that we hold so special. Even though I can grab lunch and respond to my emails at the same time now, I hardly even remember what I ate in the first place. Because it wasn't the much anticipated ‘dominos’ drive-through experience that five-year-old me couldn't wait for after dad’s pay-day; it was “Nothing special: just food”.

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