Who Put Bread on my Potatoes?

I’m something of a French fry purist. For me, the best French fries don’t need ketchup. They’re hunks of potato that have been fried to perfection, often with the skins left on, that suck up vinegar and salt and taste delicious. They’re crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, with some smaller pieces fried to a crisp.

The lesser French fries are worthwhile as well. They may look as though they’re mashed potatoes extruded from a machine, but these are the second-tier French fries. These are the ketchup delivery devices.

But I’m starting to notice a variant taking over and pushing out the other French fry styles at various chipper trucks and at some restaurants. These are breaded fries, where someone has looked at the sliced potato and thought to themselves: “this bite-sized morsel is full of starch and is deep fried in oil. What could we possibly do to make the French fry even more unhealthy?”

I blame Kentucky Fried Chicken for the development of the chicken-friend French fry. Their old fries were notoriously mushy and bland (the first commercials for their new fries poked fun at themselves), and the hint of breading offered an extra crunch that they supposed was an improvement. Unfortunately, it caught on.

My father, who worked at a chipper one summer, tells me that it involves two deep friars (quoting verse, no doubt) at two different temperatures; this suggests to me that the breaded fry is yet another cost cutting measure. And that’s my objection with breaded fries — it’s a cheap, lazy means of lending crispness to a substandard fry that doesn’t involve actually, you know, making good fries. It’s a false crispiness, and the potato taste gets lost in a vague, salty mash.

I figure the top-line French fry establishments won’t be threatened. There is nothing that’s going to compete with New York Fries, for instance. But diners that previously served the extruded mashed potato ketchup delivery system appear to be giving up those fries for their crispy alternative and that’s sad. You don’t get a chance to choose your fries at these places (they’re probably delivered in a bag, and restaurants only pick up one type).

Oh, well. I was probably getting too old for French fries, anyway.

A busy and fun weekend. We treated our visitors to a visit at the St. Jacob’s Farmer’s Market and then, yesterday, we did an excursion to Burlington’s Ikea. I encountered the breaded fries at both visits, and thus the reason for my post, but I still have to repeat what I said to the cashier and what many residents of Waterloo Region believe: it’s past time for an Ikea to head up our way. The Burlington store (the closest to us) is always packed, and a Kitchener location would be a license to print money.

We took a bit of the slow road back, nipping over to Hamilton and climbing the Escarpment on Highway 8. Vivian slept in the car both ways, having had quite a full experience at the store.

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