The french fry is the king of lardy things

by Ken Carpenter

There is nothing quite as satisfying as hogging down a large order of french fries dipped in a tangy sauce. Who cares if they have 540 calories and 26 grams of fat without the sauce?
Hah! We spit in the face of hardened, shrinking arteries. Of course, we will only spit for a while before we keel over, but that doesn’t change the fact that fries are tasty.
Imagine for a moment that you have 12 large orders of Mc Donalds fries in front of you. Or, for you wussies who never order a large, 30 small orders. Now that your mind table is heaped up, you have six minutes to eat them all. Every last one.
That is what you would have to do to break the french fry eating record by two ounces. The record is 4.46 pounds in six minutes, an ingestion of 6210 calories and 299 grams of fat in the time it takes a normal person to properly scratch their behind.
On second thought, if it takes you that long to kill such an itch I suggest you do it behind a locked door while dialing your doctor.
The average American eats somewhere between 16 and 30 pounds of fries per year. Estimates differ, probably depending on if the individual pollster supersizes or not. Regardless, somebody is getting more than their share since I only treat myself to them about six or seven times a year. My ancestry is mostly French too, but I do not feel one bit traitorous for denying myself the fatty treats.
While the French claim to have invented french (no capital) fries, it was quite likely Belgium that did so. The debate continues, but the origin of the lowly potato is much clearer.
The Incas first started cultivating the wild tubers around 750 B.C., and they soon became an important food staple. They were so critical that several potato gods were worshiped, and any crop failure prompted the sacrifice of the nose and lips of a number of unlucky peasants.
I don’t know why those particular parts were picked on, besides the fact that a noseless, lipless peasant could still wield a hoe in the tater patch. Maybe the nose was chosen because an especially bulbous beak resembles a potato. One can only imagine the bone chilling fear felt by any peasant nicknamed Potato Nose, although Yam Lips would have been a close second on the terror scale. Oddly enough, the nose theme would return centuries later in another guise.
Spain introduced the spud to Europe in the 1500’s, nicknaming them “edible stones”. For 150 years or so they were only considered edible by beasts, prisoners and Irishmen. The Scots thought them unholy because they were not mentioned in the bible, yet those very same believers would wolf down a sheep’s stomach filled with lung bits just like they had good sense.
In 1744 the King of Germany ordered all peasants to grow potatoes to fight off the latest famine. As an incentive, he threatened to have the noses chopped off of all who disobeyed. The nose, the nose, always the nose.
In the late 1700’s a Frenchman named Parmentier became the champion of the lowly potato. He devised the ingenious plan of planting a field of potatoes, guarding it heavily during the day, then leaving it unguarded at night. Naturally all the common folk thought anything worth guarding was worth stealing, and before you knew it potatoes were grown and devoured all over Europe, by all classes of folk.
It is not known when the first potato slice was introduced to a bath in hot oil, but by the 1830’s fries were popular all over France and Belgium. While Thomas Jefferson occasionally served them in the White House, it was another 100 years or so before they found their niche in America.
American soldiers coming home from France after World War I brought at least two things with them, the name “french fry” and a powerful appetite for the fried sticks. That craving caught on with the rest of the country and spawned what is now a multi-billion dollar business. About 4.5 billion pounds of processed french fries are sold each year in the good, old lard loving USA.
My sainted mother-in-law and her sister have spent their entire adult lives sampling french fries in a vain attempt to find some that can match the ones their Mom made in a battered kettle full of hog lard. She has the bypass to prove it, she says, but plans to continue her search because some things just can’t be sacrificed.
Getting back to the nose thing for a minute, the french fry has proven disgustingly adaptable to another unfortunate use. Have you ever been seated in a fast food restaurant and had the misfortune to look across the room and see some crass comedian wannabe sitting there with french fries poking out of each nostril? He (it is never a she) always sits there with his beady eyes darting about, pleased as punch.
It is a startling sight to behold, and for all of you who have a hard time skipping the fries, I hope you see it soon.