Fast food is the term provided to food that is served and prepared very quickly. This was first popularized in the 1950s in the US. While any meals with a low preparation time are considered as fast food, usually, the term refers to the foods sold in a store or restaurant with precooked or preheated ingredients, and served to customers in a package form for take-away or take-out. Traditionally, fast food restaurants separated by their ability in serving food through a drive-through. In year 1951, Merriam-Webster recognized the term fast food.
The idea of precooked food for sale is connected with the development of urban communities. In ancient Rome, there are cities that had street stands and sold sausages, wine, and bread.
- Pre-Modern Europe
In various cities of Rome, majority of the urban population living in multi-story and insulae apartments depend on the food vendors for most of their meals. During mornings, many eat bread that is soaked in wine for quick snack. Stews and cooked vegetables also became popular. During the middle ages, major urban areas and large towns like Paris and London supported many vendors who sold dishes including pastries, waffles, pies, flans, pancakes, cooked meats, and wafers.
- United Kingdom
In some areas with access to tidal or coastal waters, fast food often includes local seafood or shellfish such as oysters and eels. The trawler’s development in the mid-19th century led to the creation of fish and chips, which are the favorite of British people. British fast foods had substantial regional variation. There are times that the dish’s regionality became part of area’s culture. Nowadays, UK has also adopted fast food from some cultures including kebab, curry, and pizza. But, recently, healthier alternatives to the conventional fast foods have emerged.
- United States
Drive-in restaurants came into existence when automobiles became famous and much affordable after World War I. White Castle, an American company established by Walter Anderson and Billy Ingram in Wichita, Kansas in the year 1921, is credited with opening the 2nd fast food outlet and 1st hamburger chain that sold hamburgers for 5 cents per piece.
On the Go
Plenty of fast food outlets are take-out or take-away providers. Often known as drive-through, this allows customers to order and pick up food right from their cars. But, there are fast food outlets that have outdoor or indoor seating areas where customers can eat on the site.
Fast food was also designed as on the go. It doesn’t require any traditional cutlery and enjoyed as finger foods. The common menu items are sandwiches, fish and chips, pitas, fried chicken, hamburgers, onion rings, French fries, pizza, tacos, chicken nuggets, ice cream, and hot dogs.
The modern commercial fast food is frequently prepared and processed in an industrial fashion. This is usually on a huge scale with standard ingredients as well as production methods and standardized cooking. It’s typically served in bags or cartons or plastic wrappings in a way that reduces cost. In majority fast food operations, generally, menu items are made with the use of prepared or processed ingredients at a central supply facility. Then, this will be shipped to several outlets where they are cooked, reheated or assembled in a short period of time. The process makes sure consistency in the product quality. This can be the key to deliver the order in a quick manner to the customer and get rid of equipment and labor costs in every store.
Due to commercial emphasis on speed, low cost, and uniformity, the products of fast food are always made with formulated ingredients to achieve a particular consistency or flavor as well as to preserve freshness.
Chinese takeout restaurants are very popular. Normally, they offer various Asian foods that are fried. But, these are not always Chinese. Majority of options are similar form of rice, meat or noodles. In several cases, the food is self-service. The customers will choose the container’s size they like to purchase and then, they are free to fill it with any food of their choice. It’s common to combine some options in a container. Several outlets charge by weight instead of by item. In big cities, such restaurants may offer delivery that is free of charge for purchases.
Sushi is also famous during these days. This is a kind of fast food that was made in Japan. Normally, sushi is cold sticky rice that is flavored with sweet rice vinegar. This is served with several toppings like fish. It was also popularized in the West with filling. This often includes seafood, cucumber, chicken or fish.
Pizza is also a common and known fast food in US. With the nationwide chains of fast food that offer pizza, more and more people crave for this past food. For those who don’t have much time to dine in, pizza delivery is also offered.
Kebab houses are a kind of fast food restaurants. These are from the Middle East particularly in Lebanon and Turkey. There are also kebab shops found throughout the globe. Some of the countries that have kebab shops are New Zealand, Europe, and Australia. However, these are less known in US.
Dutch have also their own kinds of fast food. This often consists of a French fries with a meat product and sauce. The most known sauce to accompany the French fries is the fritessaus. This is a vinegary, low fat, and sweet mayonnaise alternative that Dutch still call as mayonnaise. Some popular sauces are spiced ketchup or ketchup, piccalilli, and Indonesian peanut sauce style. In some cases, fries are also served with combinations of several sauces including mayonnaise, oorlog, and so on. The meat product is typically known as a deep fried snack. It includes frikandel, which is a skinless meat sausage that is deep fried.
Fast food chains were criticized because of some concerns like negative health effects, worker exploitation cases, alleged animal cruelty, and many more. But, nowadays, more and more people are embracing fast food even if they know that this does not provide health benefits to them.