My younger daughter, Alex, is absolutely nuts over French fries. Part of the addiction may have something to do with the fact that she was prohibited from eating French fries — or anything oily — for several years after she was diagnosed with a genetic hyperacidic condition. When she finally got over it, she resumed this passionate love affair with French fries. A case of deprivation, so to speak, led to an addiction. Needless to say, we must have tried the French fries in almost every restaurant we’ve ever been to. If Chinese restaurants have them in their menu, we would have enjoyed them together with our dimsum and Peking duck.
Too unhealthy? Well, considering that we eat out at an average of three times per month, I don’t think we’re drowning in French fries.
But this entry is not about Alex’s mania. This is about, well… read on.
It might interest you to know that French fries might not have originated in France but in that part of Europe that eventually became Belgium. There are newspaper accounts of Belgians selling fried potatoes at fairs during the 18th century. Of course, they weren’t known as French fries then. The “French” part came much later. During World War I, British or American soldiers tasted the fried potatoes and, because French was the language spoken in Belgium, called them French fries. You can read all about that in Wikipedia which provides great sources in the footnotes for further reading. I’m not into food history but the “French” part did interest me. I have to say that I experienced some sort of deja vu when I thought about how American Indians came to be called as such after some ignorant explorers thought they had landed in India when, in fact, they reached another part of the world.
Beyond the name, there are French fries and there are French fries. Most people swear that McDonald’s French fries are the best tasting but I beg to differ. I don’t like processed fries. You know, the kind that had been machine-cut, seasoned, treated, frozen then fried in oil. I like my French fries with the potato skins on. Meaning home-cooked only? Well, not really.
There are restaurants that still make French fries from fresh potatoes. Hand-cut and cooked with the skins on. The first photo above was taken at Tender Bob’s (Shangri-La Plaza); the second, at Iceberg (Robinson’s Galleria). There used to be a stall at Cherry’s Supermarket (Marcos Highway, Antipolo) called New Yorker where the fries are hand-cut with the skins on too. Of course, the fries sold at the stall were pre-cut but they still retained the natural flavor of potatoes. That, for me, is the determinative factor. You can enhance the fries with ketchup or mayo, or flavor them with powdered sour cream or cheese, but if I can’t taste the natural flavors of the potatoes, then, they’re just tummy-fillers and nothing to write odes to. I especially do not like French fries that taste like cooking oil.
Why the sudden interest in fried potatoes? It’s not that sudden, actually. It started some time ago when I made Swiss Rosti. I’m reading up on different ways of serving fried potatoes and French fries came up, naturally. Funny that a couple of centuries ago, potatoes were thought to be poisonous. We’ve come a long way, baby, and I’ll be doing a few fried potatoes dishes over the weekend.