Fast Food Breakfasts

The monochrome meals of American mornings

According to the CDC, one-third of Americans eat fast food on any given day. Lunch and dinner remain the most popular time of day to do so, but 22.7% of adults surveyed by the CDC say they eat fast food for breakfast.

There is a lot of food-shaming around the consumption of fast food, and yes, the food is high in fat, high in sodium, high in sugar, and high in calories. But fast food is cheap. Fast food is readily available. (There are plenty of towns and neighborhoods that don't have grocery stores but do have McDonalds, for example.) You can eat it, one-handed, in your car, while you drive to and from work, to and from school, to and from errands. It's fast. It's easy. And often (although not always), it's fucking delicious.

I don't eat a lot of fast food; I never have. I didn't grow up eating it. (My family owned a grocery store. For this and other reasons I'll explain in another essay some day, my "food story" involves a lot of home-cooking.) Fast food was, when I was a kid, a rare treat. I remember going to the Wendy's when it first opened in my hometown in the early 1980s, drawn in by Clara Peller's infamous bark, "Where's the beef?" I remember the odd trip to Dairy Queen for peanut-buster parfaits. I remember Taco Bell’s cinnamon crispas — no doubt the best thing on the menu. I remember thinking that there wasn't really anything special about the rootbeer floats at A&W other than the mugs were, indeed, very very cold. I vaguely remember some M.U.S.C.L.E. Men-type toy in a Happy Meal that my little brother was pretty stoked about. While I can't say I have any other strong McDonalds memories, I will say that hamburgers are one of my favorite foods, and in my head, the McDonalds cheeseburger — not the Quarter Pounder, just the classic cheeseburger with pickle, onion, ketchup, mustard, and American cheese — is the ur burger.

Kin and I were on the road a lot this summer, and one of the great joys of our RV is we can mostly avoid having to eat out. But we decided we'd test the breakfast options at various restaurants, because "Second Breakfast" and all that. (These were often my second or even third breakfasts, as on mornings that I run, I'll eat something small before I run and then again almost as soon as I walk in the door.)