potato chips

Why are so many junk foods advertised as addictive, as if that’s a good thing?

No one does addiction like David Foster Wallace. Anyone who’s read Infinite Jest knows that addiction is not a light or joking matter. No, addiction is an all-consuming nightmare.

“Reading while waiting for marijuana was out of the question,” notes one of the characters. Darn right it is: addiction wipes out the ability to think about anything at all, except for the indulgence.

If it’s really and truly addictive, we should be cautious about consuming it, right? It’s better to ration the dose of an addictive substance, than go the whole hog and end up like one of DFW’s more piteous creatures, right? According to recent books by Michael Moss and David Kessler, sugar, salt, and fat—in the right combinations and when mixed with other tasty ingredients—can and do hook consumers every day, just as surely as alcohol, tobacco, and drugs do.

Some of the best pleasures of life, in my opinion, include luscious glasses of wine, crunchy handfuls of chips, and gobby mouthfuls of chocolate. But if I grab a bottle, bag, or bar and notice that the label says “ADDICTIVE!!!!”—well, after reading IJ, I’ll probably just place it back on the shelf.