In our latest Freakonomics Radio on Marketplace podcast, “How American Food Got Bad,” Tyler Cowen gives some specific, surprising reasons why food got so bad. (You can download/subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, or read the transcript here.)
One big historical factor: Prohibition. Restaurants that relied on alcohol sales closed their doors, often replaced by diners, soda fountains, and candy shops. This new breed of restaurant served hot dogs, hamburgers, chop suey, and what we now know as classic American fast food. We traded quality for speed and convenience. Here are some photos of that transformation, when cheap food outlets popped up to meet the demands of our growing consumer society.