When did French fries stop being good enough?
For almost 300 years, people have been slicing good old white spuds into batons and deep-frying them, serving them with burgers, hot dogs, chicken strips, steak. You name it, people have offered it with a side of fries.
They taste fantastic with just about any sauce or topping, from ketchup to mayonnaise to milkshake and gravy. They can be consumed effortlessly whilst driving, stuffed inside a burrito or between layers of a burger. Frankly, they're just perfect. Soggy or crispy, steak or shoestring, pommes frites are the side dish of choice where Americans are concerned (and rightly so); but lately, a usurper to the throne has emerged — pumpkin-colored sweet potato splinters stealing the word "fries."
Nowadays nearly everywhere you go, they'll serve up fried sweet potatoes like they're going out of style. Even Jack in the Box has got 'em — hell, I give Taco Bell a month before they're cradling them in flour tortillas and mislabeling the end product as a taco. So what's the big deal? The big deal is that some places have started to only serve sweet potato fries, and usually with a side of smug self-superiority.
Back when I was doing the veggie-schtick for Lent, I ate at Veggie Grill like twice a week, and that restaurant doesn't have a single good side dish. Vegan chili? Needs more beef fat. Mashed cauliflower? Meh. And, of course, sweet potato fries. Only sweet potato fries.
Being the concerned culinarist I am, I emailed their marketing department and asked, "Everything I've had so far is great…except the fries. I don't like Sweet Potatoes, and boy, would that All-American combo taste so much better with a side of regular, starchy, potato fries. Why, Veggie Frill? WHY?"
They were polite in the face of my obnoxia, and replied something to the effect of the fact that not only did sweet potato fries have the nutritional upper hand, but also that they felt there was no way they could improve traditional French fries.
Well, first of all, duh. If ain't broke, don't fix it.
You can't really improve traditional French fries because they are perfect. One day, God was like, hey, throw those people down there a bone — and that's where fried white potatoes came from.
Tell me you didn't cry the first time you ate a McDonald's French fry. Or if you remember what it was like when Burger King altered the size and salt content of their golden morsels (Winter 2011). Unless you're some sort of soulless Communist, I'm certain you have a few cherished French fry memories of your own. Now imagine those precious anecdotes ruined by a bunch of gritty, too-sweet carbs that look like burnt carrot sticks. It's not a pretty picture.
Of course, as of my decision to write this piece, I've recently been informed that Veggie Grill has temporarily added white fries to their "Winter Menu," — all of us preparing for hibernation are eternally grateful.
And as for the nutritional advantage, sure, sweet potatoes are a little bit healthier than white spuds, but boy am I tired of every wannabe pretentious foodie asshole stuffing their faces with orange mash and proclaiming its superfood status, like it's some secret mystery they hiked to South America to find and plan on using to cure cancer.
First of all, they're not inspired — morons have been deep-frying the inferior potato for years now. Second of all, they're really not that much better for you — white spuds generally have a few more calories and and a little more sodium, but they also have more protein (bro). And, surprise surprise, sweet potatoes have several more grams of sugar per spud.
And, at the end of the day, let's be honest with each other — you're still eating a fried goddamn potato. Just because yours is the color of a traffic cone and the consistency of fresh mud doesn't make you any better than me — in fact, it might just make you a self-righteous dillhole.
Or maybe you just like sweet potatoes, in which case, hey, I apologize – you're not a jerk or a weirdo… you're just wrong.