The Belgian Prime Minister was pelted with fries and mayonnaise, in a precedent-setting attack on Monday by protestors against a new austerity program. Belgian fried potatoes, more widely known as French fries, are a national dish in this country which claims their invention. Fries are most often served with mayonnaise in Belgium and 95% of Belgians patronize a Friekot stand where they are widely sold, at least once a year.
Searching for a theme for my first essay as a new member of the Chicago Literary Club in 2005, I hit on the topic of French fries. Why fries?
I had been chief spokesperson for McDonald’s, a brand with more than a casual association with French fries, until my retirement at the Millennium. While I’d always had a lot to say about McDonald’s French fries, I realized there was much to learn about the history of the French fry, so I decided to set out and learn what I could, then write about it for the Literary Club, of all places!
That first French fry essay became my first presentation to the Literary Club membership in 2005, then as you will read in subsequent posts, I was contacted by a French television company to appear in a one hour film about French fry culture, that was largely based upon my essay, which the producers had discovered online at the Literary Club website: http://www.chilit.org.
As decade later, in 2014, as serendipity would have it, I decided to write another essay for the club based upon a trip to Belgium and France we had taken in April, and as I dove into the writing, it became clear to me that I was doing a sequel to my original first essay on fries.
French fried potatoes, of course, became much more to me than the story of a cut and fried vegetable. Fries became a foil for changing human cultures over the past hundreds of years, and how the lowly fried potato has been part of the mélange of influences on multi-cultural social evolution.