The War on French Fries

By Cowin, Michael R. | Parks & Recreation, March 2001 | Go to article overview

The War on French Fries


Cowin, Michael R., Parks & Recreation


Isn't it interesting how some foods have names with geographical affiliations? Some have names that are so illustrious that they have a moniker at a country level. I'm talking about German chocolate cake, English muffins, Canadian bacon, and Belgian waffles. And speaking of country names, isn't it ironic that a country with the name Turkey doesn't celebrate Thanksgiving? So far there is no food affiliation yet with the country of Trinidad and Tobago, though it does sound like something you would order at your local Starbucks ("Yes, I'll have a Grande Trinidad and Tobago, and leave room for cream please.")

As we go down the geographic stratum, we have the state and city food affiliations. These would include the Denver omelet, Boston baked beans, North Carolina barbecue, and even Kentucky Fried Chicken, or just "KFC" as they are now officially called to somehow disguise the fact that most of the food served there is, indeed, fried.

I bring these up only as a lead in to the most egregious of these foods with monikers: the French fry. I'll leave it to the Concise Encyclopedia of Foods and Nutrition [pg. 869) to define why I term this food egregious:

   "French-frying reduces the water content of potatoes to the extent that the
   cooked product contains over twice the solids, three to four times the
   calories and double the protein content of baked or boiled potatoes [from
   4g to 8g]. Furthermore, each ounce (28g) contains almost one teaspoon (5
   ml) of fat."

You cannot visit a major fast-food outlet today without almost every item being accompanied with French fries into what they refer to as a "value meal." Valuable for whom I ask? Cardiologists and the makers of the cholesterol-lowering medication Mevacor? I'll be nice and not name these establishments, though if I "arch" my back while playing checkers against someone named "Wendy" while proclaiming "king me," I think you'll get my drift.

But we live in America and even food items have rights. It would hardly be fair of me to not give a little history of the French fry and let it defend itself. Besides, I hear the last person who wrote a negative column about these "tots" had a terrible accident with cooking grease.

First off, nobody knows exactly why these things are called French fries and if they even originated in France in the first place. In fact, to this day, many Belgians claim that they invented French fries. Naysayers to this theory point out that Belgium (as it exists today) was not formed until 1830 and that the potato first made its way to Europe in 1493 ("In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue. …

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