Tuesday, July 13, 2010

French Fried Delight

Magnet # 291:  Seagull with Pier Fries

Material:  Wood

Purchased By:  Mom & Dad

Welcome all to National French Fry Day, the one day set aside to celebrate perhaps the most popular fried food ever. French fries were actually invented by the Belgians and date back to around the 1600s. There's a legend that the people there often served small, fried fish with their meals. When the river froze one year and they couldn't get to the fish, they began to cut up potatoes lengthwise and fry them instead. The dish really caught on and spread all over Europe. And how did they come to be known as french fries? It's believed that happened during World War I, when soldiers from America and England were introduced to them by members of the Belgian Army, whose official language was French.  And by then, the French had already adopted these fried snacks into their cuisine - in fact, Thomas Jefferson once served potatoes prepared in the French style at a White House dinner.  But after World War I, french fries reached a new level of popularity all over the world, going to places as far as South Africa and Malaysia and making their way into their culture.  Nowadays, there are quite a few variations of the french fry that include steak fries, shoestring fries, tots, wedges, and chips.  And they can be served with all sorts of condiments, from vinegar to curry to mustard to honey and even gravy and tzatziki sauce.  So which variety do I like best? I tend to go for the more flavorful curly fries which have all sorts of spices on them, with ketchup. Also, a favorite restaurant of mine back home has some very tasty waffle fries. Overall, I tend to like hand cut fries best, but I try not to eat them too often - I probably indulge in fries about every other month, and giving in to the craving is really great.

So where might a fan of french fries go to join in this special day? Well, the Travel Channel has never done a special just on french fries, but they have mentioned some rather unusual ones that are served at one of their Hot Dog Paradise restaurants - Hot Doug's in Chicago, Illinois. Not only do they offer all sorts of unusual meat in their hot dogs, from rattlesnake to kangaroo to reindeer, they also serve up some rather unusual fries that are heated in duck fat. Anthony Bourdain tried them out on No Reservations and he was smitten. Unfortunately, they're only cooked on Friday and Saturday - maybe they could make an exception on this special day. But there are at least two places that are giving away free fries today in celebration. With a coupon, customers at the chain Bob Evans can receive a free order of Sweet Potato Fries, and the Deca Bar at Chicago's Ritz-Carlton is also giving anyone who orders a cocktail their choice of the several varieties of fries they offer. Sounds like pretty good deals, if you're in the right location to get them. And what's one place I probably won't be visiting for french fries today? Well, that would be the largest fast food chain in the world, McDonald's. I really liked their fries growing up, but when the documentary Super Size Me was released on DVD in 2004, I watched a scene that completely changed my view of them. Most everyone knows this is a film about Morgan Spurlock and how he only eats McDonald's food for a month and his health suffers, but one of the scenes dubbed "The Smoking Fry" that was deleted from the film is perhaps the most interesting. In it, Spurlock buys a variety of burgers, sandwiches, and fries from McDonald's and a regular burger joint, puts them all in their own bell jars, and watches how they decompose. In a couple of weeks, as expected, the food is all covered with mold - with the exception of the McDonald's fries, which look like they've been sitting out for a couple of hours. And ten weeks later, the results are the same. Unfortunately, an intern threw all of the food out not long after that, so it wasn't clear just how long the fries would take to go bad. But the point was clear that McDonald's fries are a little unnatural with all of the preservatives that have been crammed into them, and I doubt they're the only chain that does so. All in all, french fries really aren't the healthiest foods out there. But go ahead and enjoy them today, perhaps in moderation. National French Fry Day is the perfect excuse to partake of one of the tastiest, if hardly healthiest, fried foods out there, so grab an order of your favorites and indulge, if only for a day!

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