Fast Food Nation

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The founder of the Carl’s Jr. chain of burger restaurants, Carl Karcher moved to California before World War Two, and based his business around other developing burger stands in the region—all of which were adapting to the new car- and highway-based culture of the suburbs. Karcher’s first Carl’s Jr. soon became a chain of franchises, and after the company acquired Hardee’s in the 1990s, Carl’s Jr. began to spread across the country—making Karcher a great deal of money.

Carl Karcher Quotes in Fast Food Nation

The Fast Food Nation quotes below are all either spoken by Carl Karcher or refer to Carl Karcher. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Diet, Nutrition, and Food Safety Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Mariner edition of Fast Food Nation published in 2012.
Chapter 1: The Founding Fathers Quotes

When I first met my wife . . . this road here was gravel . . . and now it’s blacktop.

Related Characters: Carl Karcher (speaker), Eric Schlosser
Page Number: 28
Explanation and Analysis:

Carl Karcher of Carl's Jr. believes, and not incorrectly, that fast food restaurants played a large role in the modernization of the American West. They certainly did - it is hard to dispute the idea that freeways, suburbs, and fast food shaped the way Americans recreated and moved through space. What separates Karcher from Schlosser, however, is the idea of this being a good, or positive, development for American society. Karcher sees fast food as an engine of economic growth that made the West, along with myriad suburban developments, livable for a large number of people. Before Karcher, the West was nothing more than a set of paths and land for grazing livestock. 

But this idea of the West as a rugged, natural, untouched place is, for Schlosser, an important one. Fast food really did change the American landscape, and Schlosser argues it did not change it for the better. Patterns of food consumption are one thing. But as the book progresses, Schlosser will go on to describe the ways that food production - namely farming and herding techniques - were negatively altered in order to accommodate large food conglomerates. 

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Carl Karcher Character Timeline in Fast Food Nation

The timeline below shows where the character Carl Karcher appears in Fast Food Nation. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1: The Founding Fathers
Greed, Corporations, and “The Bottom Line” Theme Icon
Independence vs. the Social Contract Theme Icon
Work and “The Good Life” Theme Icon
Schlosser begins his story with Carl Karcher, the eventual founder of Carl’s Jr. fast-food restaurants. Karcher was born to a large... (full context)
Greed, Corporations, and “The Bottom Line” Theme Icon
Independence vs. the Social Contract Theme Icon
Work and “The Good Life” Theme Icon
Carl realized, after marrying and purchasing a hot dog cart in Anaheim, that he could expand... (full context)
Diet, Nutrition, and Food Safety Theme Icon
Greed, Corporations, and “The Bottom Line” Theme Icon
Independence vs. the Social Contract Theme Icon
Work and “The Good Life” Theme Icon
Schlosser argues that Carl Karcher’s business took off at exactly the same time as other key southern California corporations,... (full context)
Diet, Nutrition, and Food Safety Theme Icon
Greed, Corporations, and “The Bottom Line” Theme Icon
Independence vs. the Social Contract Theme Icon
Bureaucracy and Complex Systems Theme Icon
Schlosser notes that Carl Karcher visited the San Bernardino “Speedee Service” location of the McDonald’s brothers, and imported some... (full context)
Greed, Corporations, and “The Bottom Line” Theme Icon
Independence vs. the Social Contract Theme Icon
Bureaucracy and Complex Systems Theme Icon
Schlosser notes that, for men like Carl Karcher, it was not always a straight line of success. In the early 1990s, Karcher... (full context)
Greed, Corporations, and “The Bottom Line” Theme Icon
Independence vs. the Social Contract Theme Icon
Bureaucracy and Complex Systems Theme Icon
Work and “The Good Life” Theme Icon
But eight weeks after this “lockout,” Karcher managed to find an investment group that would take on some of Carl’s Jr.’s debt,... (full context)
Chapter 2: Your Trusted Friends
Greed, Corporations, and “The Bottom Line” Theme Icon
Independence vs. the Social Contract Theme Icon
Bureaucracy and Complex Systems Theme Icon
Work and “The Good Life” Theme Icon
Disney was also greatly enamored with “progress,” not unlike Carl Karcher, the founder of Carl’s Jr. In particular, Disney’s progress, like Kroc’s, involved an America... (full context)