My great-aunt, known in her day as the Half-Baked Dietitian of Coney Island, called it chozzerai.

My mother, who reigns in the wondrous culinary region of North Jersey, turned her nose up at fast food, too. Called it junk. Stunts your growth, she said. Grows hair on your palms.

"Just don't drink that stuff," she'd say as I'd lift a vanilla shake (Cha teau McDonald's, 1965) to my yap. "You don't know what's in it!"

Now, courtesy of a coalition of health and consumer groups, we all might know what goes into it. If their petitions are convincing to the Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Agriculture, you might soon be able to read the ingredients on the cardboard as you lift that luscious liquid lipwards:

Milk, sucrose, nonfat milk solids (ummm . . .), corn syrup solids (aahhh . . .), cream, guar gum, sodium hexametaphosphate (say what!), carrageenan, salt, imitation vanilla powder (for the natural taste), sodium alginate, cellulose gum (more gum?), dextrose and, to obtain that shade of Moby Dick whiteness, FD&C Yellow dyes Nos. 5 and 6?


"We believe it's time to lift the veil of secrecy from fast foods," says Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

A man who obviously listens to his mother.

Always a bad policy.

Whenever you visit hot dog carts and watch the vendor dip his fork into the murk to stab your frank, there always seems to be someone around to make cryptic comments about cow snouts, pure'ed hoofs, mystic entrails. It's probably Michael Jacobson. No taste, that guy.

As Steve Martin would say, Love them animal lips!

When you go to the ice cream truck and order a "sky-blue ice," someone is always there to mention, "I wonder what fruit is 'sky-blue' "? Mr. Jacobson, I presume?

Does this mean the secret is out on the Secret Sauce?

What part of the chicken is a McNugget? The McWing?

Why do they call it the Whopper, anyway?

And where's the Beef?

We shall soon know.

Jacobson and his friends want to help people with allergies and other ailments avoid problems with fast food. A noble idea.

But mystery, dear Jacobson, mystery is the finest spice.