Good morning and happy Hump Day, ladies and gentlemen! Thanks for rising and shining with The County Line on this beautiful Wednesday in the Commonwealth.
Sleuthful readers who remember the headline they clicked on just seconds ago know, however, that today is no ordinary Wednesday. Okay, maybe it is, but only because we’re doing what we do here and celebrating barely known, irrelevant faux holidays. Please put your hands together for today’s winner, National French Fry Day.
Let’s break it down. First, why “French Fry Day” and not “French Fries Day” — have we no regard for singular v. plural? It’s an important distinction. I bet the most devout Fry Guy you know wouldn’t flinch over a single French fry. This is a food that is meant to be eaten in groups. The great Mitch Hedberg once said, “Rice is great when you’re really hungry and you want 2,000 of something,” and the same sentiment applies to fries. Maybe don’t eat 2,000 of them, but one won’t do anything but make you mad. I’d recommend at least a few dozen fries per sitting or it’s not even worth it.
It’s also noteworthy — barely, I’ll admit — that today is National Beef Tallow Day. If you didn’t already know, beef tallow is basically lard, just rendered beef fat used for cooking. I only mention this wannabe holiday because of beef tallow’s storied relationship with French fries.
“Storied history” is not an exaggeration either. Let’s go back in time a few McDecades.
Some people love McDonald’s French fries. Others claim that they “used to taste way better,” and they might be right. McDonald’s used to fry their fries in beef tallow.
In 1990, under pressure — that we now understand was probably misguided — to provide healthier fare, Micky D’s switched to vegetable oil to cook fries. I don’t remember how fries tasted in 1990, but everyone who does seems to miss the old version, so I’ve always wanted to try some fries cooked in beef tallow. Why can’t we get this instead of the McRib again?
This post is not dedicated to cooking grease or cooking methods of any kind, though, so let’s get back to fries. There’s not too much to say about this holiday, but I’ll do my best. It’s tough because French fries are like a good role player on a basketball team or character actor in a movie: reliable, does the job, doesn’t hog the spotlight. I’ve eaten possibly billions of French fries over the years and maybe two times they were the centerpiece of the meal, and even then it took bacon and melted cheese and chili to elevate the taters to main course status.
Fries just don’t make headlines.
The one exception to this rule came about 20 years ago, and it was ridiculous. This is the only time in my 35 years that fries, but not necessarily French fries, captivated this great nation.
Ya’ll remember freedom fries? If you don’t — or if you’re too young — here’s a brief and oversimplified recap: The War on Terror had just begun. The U.S. military was already in Afghanistan and then-President George W. Bush wanted to invade Iraq. France opposed. Millions of Americans opposed the opposition from France, our longtime ally. Barely a year removed from 9/11, we were as unified as our country has ever been, awash in patriotism, and we showed France our displeasure by temporarily renaming potatoes. The movement started with a single restaurant but soon swept the nation. The U.S. House of Representatives even changed fries’ name in House cafeterias. They didn’t change it back until August of 2006.
This is one of those things that is impossible to explain in any way that makes sense to anyone who wasn’t there to live through it. We renamed French fries in anger, and most people were either supportive of it or at least accepting. It doesn’t make sense looking back on it but trust me — it did at the time.
I’ve wasted enough time on sliced taters, so let’s move on to weather, brought to you by the intern:
At 6:30 a.m., it’s currently 66 degrees at company headquarters in Russell Springs. The intern correspondent just down the road in Jamestown reports an identical 66 temp, and it’s a tick warmer, 77, at The County Line’s Adair branch in north Columbia. Expect partly cloudy skies today with a relatively mild for July high in the mid 80s.
That’s all for now, folks. Thanks for reading, and don’t forget to check back throughout the day for much more serious and important content, always from local voices.