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Fast Food, And the Kitchen at Frankenstein's Castle

by James H. Burns

I use to have about as big a fast food jones as you could have.

I loved McDonald's, would eat at Burger King, enjoyed Arthur Treacher's... (And had REALLY fond memories of the gone-by-the-late 1970s chains, Wetsons, and Carol's...)

Somehow, when I was in my early twenties--and I was always slim--I could easily devour a meal at McDonalds, of two burgers, two small fries, and TWO Big Macs...

I never really worried if my McDonald' s cravings, were for "real food."

I didn't even REGARD this stuff as real food.

There were steaks, chicken, chops, pasta and the rest of a normal diet--

And then there was "fast food."

Whether I had been programmed to like such "fare" by years of shrewd marketing campaigns, or from an addiction born in childhood samplings of "franchised" hamburgers, and their ilk:

I regarded these "drive-through" staples--as long as they were consumed, ocassionally, in moderation--as relatively harmless, and, more importantly, ENJOYABLE!

Then, a bunch of years ago, McDonald's burgers started tasting, well, different. And Burger King also wasn't quite the same, as in the 1980s.

I chalked it up to lesser quality control, in the age of the bottom line. Or, that my tastebuds were changing, darn it, along with the rest of my metabolism, as I got a little older.

But then I finally caught up with FAST FOOD NATION (the book, not the Hollywood movie it inspired), the non-fiction bestseller, by Eric Schlosser, fully exploring the way that food is mass-produced for all the different chains, and in many of the prepared food products, available in super-markets.

The book delves heavily into the "aromas and scents" industry, based mostly in the chemical company hotbed of New Jersey.

It turns out that when you munch a McDonald's hamburger, or french fry, you're not necessarily tasting the food--

But, usually, a chemical added to the product that strikes your senses--

As being/REPLICATING a burger, or fry...

(In one of Fast Food Nation's weirdest excerpts, author Schlosser closes his eyes, as a scientist at one of the chemical manufacturers, puts a piece of paper that had been dipped in a liquid mixture, up to the writer's nose. Schlosser would have sworn that he smelled a hamburger, cooking on the grill. It was simply the laboratory concocted fluid....)

The chemicals aren't even necessarily artificial.

Sometimes the taste inducers are derived from other,"natural" combinations. So, for many years now--in a chemical combination that was evidently altered at some point--you haven't been craving a Big Mac, or Whopper, or Chicken Sandwich--

But strange amalgamations, treated with some laboratory-derived essence....

Am I suggesting that anybody change their eating habits?

Of course not!

(I still need a fast food fix every once in a while, but nowadays, it's more likely to be for Taco Bell. (Which, based on Schlosser's book, probably means I just like their "meat" chemical-sensors more than that of the other chains'...!))

For years, I've harbored the suspicion that we've all, generally, digested so many food additives, that in some way, our bodies now might actually NEED some of these chemicals.

...Or, at least, our constitutions. would be thrown for a loss, by a sudden cold turkey withdrawal from packaged foods, or, rather, the chemicals used to help make them. But, just realize that the next time you chow down at a fast-food joint, the product in front of you might be more "fantastical" than any created, in a science fictional tale--

And that such consumption, may have already turned us, BIOLOGICALLY, into "creatures," undreamed of, previously, in any age...!

James H. Burns


The Bond Beer Imbroglio

The virtual explosion of surprise over James Bond drinking a beer in his new movie was a bit absurd, and played almost like some practical joke from one of the spy's arch enemies seeking to display just how gullible the media can be...

("Is that a SPECTRE I see over your shoulder?")

Call it a vast victory for product placement: The kind that not only gets the brand a major slot in a movie, but gets folks--including "The NBC Nightly News"--buzzing to the tune of MILLIONS OF DOLLARS of free publicity, for both the film, and the endorsement.

But Ian Fleming's secret agent 007 has been having the occasional brew, almost since his very beginnings in the author's bestselling series of espionage novels, that commenced in the early 1950s!

Sponsorships and other marketing arrangements have had a long history with the James Bond film series, and have helped pay the freight, in fact, for the super-scaled extravaganzas that so many of us enjoy.

The spy only switched from his famous Rolex Oyster Perpetual watch, for example, when other companies offered to front the fee for all the free publicity that attended gracing 007's wrist...

The most blatant advertisements may have come in Moonraker which seemed to feature a bevy of well-placed brand-names, reaching a nadir with a closeup, in a drawer, of a pack of Marlboro cigarettes...

(Behind the scenes, many countries have also lobbied for Bond's filmmakers to lens an adventure on their shores.)

The most amusing response to the Bond brou-ha-ha may have been in THE NEW YORK POST, when a bartender said that 007 drinking a beer would be like the spy giving up his Aston Martin automobile.

(Bond drove a Lotus Esprit in two of Roger Moore's Bond movies, and a BMW in some of Pierce Brosnan's adventures as the secret agent!)

In Fleming's original stories, Bond's drink of choice was indeed a vodka martini--"preferably with 4 parts Vodka to one of dry Vermouth, with a twist of lemon peel" (shaken, not stirred, of course)--but he also imbibed bourbon, whiskey and, every once in a while, even a Calvados. In the films, Bond sipped a Mint Julep with Goldfinger, a Rum Collins in Thunderball, Saki with Tiger Tanaka, Ouzo in For Your Eyes Only, and a Mojito in Havana!

(As for wine, 007 has enjoyed Mouton Rothschild (various vintages) in both the books and movies; Chianti, White Bordeaux, Moselle, and Pouilly Fuisse in the novels; and sherry (among others), on celluloid.)

Across ALL the series, of course, Bond has favored champagne, ranging from Dom Perignon, to Taittinger, and Bollinger's...

Perhaps the oddest aspect to this manufactured imbroglio is that 007 ordered a beer in "The Living Daylights," almost TWENTY-THREE YEARS ago! (" A Bud, with lime.")

And in the VERY LAST Bond film, Quantum of Solace, he ALSO had a bottled beer (at a bar in Bolivia)!

(But, alas, no one paid for a label to be widely displayed...)

As for Ian Fleming's 007:

James Bond DIDN'T like British ales:

But he was known to occasionally drink Lowenbrau in Switzerland, Red Stripe in Jamaica, and Miller's High Life in America!


Remembering Carrol's Hamburgers

It is rare for this column to be so geographically focused, but I thought this reminiscence might fit nicely this time around. (Plus, I recently discovered, this once-upon-a-time New York hamburger chain from the 1960s--and possibly before--had branches in Massachusetts, as well as, possibly, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and even Las Vegas!) It also has reflections on a business element of our pop and consumer histories, that chroniclers of those phenomena seldom today ever mention....

Some Long Islanders may long lyrically for Wetson's hamburger chain (one of my childhood favorites, gone by the late 1970s)...

And you can find reflections on the 'net waxing warmly about the still-in-existence Jahn's and Itgen's

But no one, it seems, remembers Carrol's.

Carrol's was my FIRST fast food restaurant, long before McDonald's in our area, and years before I was aware of Wetson's.

In the mid-60s, there was one right on Franklin Avenue, in Franklin Square, where the McDonald's has been for over 37 years. Apparently, though, it was only one of MANY, Carrol's throughout New York state, and elsewhere...

For years, I'd check Google, or other search engines, occasionally, for info about the chain, but nada... Maybe it was because I was leaving out the second "R". But even folks I'd mention Carrol's to would have no memory of the franchise--

Which was odd, because at one time, apparently, there were over SEVENTY Carrol's, particularly near there corporate headquarters, in Syracuse...

The Franklin Square Carrol's disappeared around 1967 or so, and there was no fast food joint there until the McDonald's took the lease, sometime around 1973...

(Often forgotten now is that one of the reasons McDonald's took so long to take hold in the New York boroughs and suburbs was that so many of the desirable leases, were controlled by other corporations.)

It was strange when a new Carrol's suddenly debuted, about a mile down the block, on Hempstead Turnpike, around 1975--

Particularly because, as it turns out, that was just about the end for the chain.

Various internet references explain that Burger King essentially bought out the company, but with the original Carrol's corporation controlling many of the units, and becoming one of the United States' largest single Burger King franchisees.

It's amazing, of course, to realize that once upon a time, for UNDER fifty cents, you could get a burger, fries and a soda...

There are those of us, in fact, who are STILL partial to Carrol's and Wetson's remembered fare, over their contemporary fast food heirs!

(Will we ever again easily have soda fountain cola made with cane sugar, rather than whatever those fructosey things are nowadays?)

Encountering Carrol's arcana on the internet made me glad in the special way that occurs when viewing images that have existed only at the deepest fringes of memory: roadmarks also, from a New York that is long gone.

(These photos, by the way, are not of the mentioned Franklin Square restaurant, but other, representative, Carrol's.)

For those of us who remember the place, it's fun to note that the chain, reportedly, still has outposts OVERSEAS, in such far removed climes, as Finland.

(If you Google, you can easily find a Syracuse newspaper remembrance of Carrol's from last year, where memories are still strong, in what was once the chain's home base.)

I think my overall fascination for all this, though, aside from a pleasant childhood memory, is that almost entirely forgotten today is that places like Carrol's helped literally whet the appetite, and market, for the future explosion of fast food franchises, in the Tri-State area.

But it was at Carrol's. where I--and who knows how MANY countless others?--can still remember being a toddler, and eating those burgers, and discovering the joys of hambuger stand french fries!

James H. Burns
You can contact Jim at

(James H. (Jim) Burns was a pioneer of the second wave of fantasy and science fiction movie magazines, being one of the first writers for Starlog(and several other late 1970s publications), and a contributing editor to Fantastic Films, and Prevue. (He wrote the earliest of thesearticles, when he was thirteen...!)

Jim was also a key figure in many of the era's North Eastern American comic book and Star Trek conventions. Burns was one of the field's first writers to cross over to such mainstream fare as Gentleman's Quarterly, Esquire, and American Film, while still contributing to such genre stalwarts as Cinefantastique, Starburst, Heavy Metal and Twilight Zone magazines.

More recently, Jim has made several contributions to Off-Broadway, and Broadway productions, become active in radio, and written Op-Eds, or features, for Newsday, The Village Voice, and The New York Times.)

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