Do you want fries with that? It’s complicated.

Americans have a torturous relationship with fast food. We often vilify it for expanding our waistlines, yet we also look at it as a way to treat ourselves. And part of the reason we seek the guilty pleasures to be found in burgers, shakes and fries is the familiarity such foods evoke, says writer Adam Chandler.

“Even for people who haven’t had fast food in five or 10 years, they still have fond memories of sneaking out of high school with their friends and going to Taco Bell during their lunch breaks or going to McDonald’s for a birthday party when they were kids,” says Chandler, author of Drive-Thru Dreams: A Journey Through the Heart of America’s Fast-Food Kingdom.

In his book, Chandler describes the unshakable bond between Americans and fast food — which he explored during his travels across the country, from the Gulf of Mexico to the Great Lakes. This bond is defined by fast food’s connection to American history, as well as its ability to adapt to different times, palates and cultures. More at NPR.org

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