In Defense of French Fries, Or Why Sweet Potatoes are Ungodly Usurpers of the Throne

fries.jpg
O Captain, My Captain!

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.

You can follow Ryan Cady on Twitter @rycady! Also, follow Stick a Fork In It on Twitter @ocweeklyfood or on Facebook! And don't forget to download our free Best Of App here!


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17 comments
ecbrightwell
ecbrightwell

"And, at the end of the day, let's be honest with each other -- you're still eating a fried goddamn potato." Except that you're not. Potatoes are in the Solanum genus along with nightshade. Sweet potatoes are in the pomoea genus along with morning glories. Yams, for that matter, are in the the Dioscorea genus. None are closely related to one another (except culinarily and linguistically), all have different flavors and nutritional content, and finally, why am I allowing myself to get sucked into commenting on something so trivial?

SpudsaSpud
SpudsaSpud

I love sweet potatoes. And I'm not crazy about regular potatoes generally. But when you turn a sweet potato into a french fry, it's an abomination of Biblical proportions. First, shouldn't these really be yam fries?? Second, has anyone ever seen a "true" sweet potato--the white kind--turned into a french fry? I'd like to try that.

whateveryousay
whateveryousay topcommenter

I like them both but Pomme Frites can never be sweet potato.


Ernesto L. Abeytia
Ernesto L. Abeytia

Spain serves fries (patatas fritas) with most meals. If anything, it's weird when you DON'T get them.

Aaron Roach
Aaron Roach

Yes I like the flavor of regular fries better, but when I was on a low carb diet, sweet potatoes saved my sanity. The fries from Slater's with pumpkin dipping sauce, or the delicious tots from Lazy Dog with the chili aioli are still some of my favorite things.

Joanne O'Connell
Joanne O'Connell

I have loved sweet potato fries since I popped the first one in my mouth years ago. There's certainly plenty of room for both if they're done right.

Glenna Thompson
Glenna Thompson

Our local mexican hole in the wall serves Carne Asada Fries. Basically, nachos on french fries instead of chips. This is the best gringo food I've ever had.

Ward Anderson
Ward Anderson

I thought I was the only person that didn't think sweet potatoes were all that...and I'm a vegetarian 10+ years! Still don't eat that healtht though haha

Kelly Hughes Davis
Kelly Hughes Davis

There are few things in life better than a really good order of fries (classic russet potato) and ketchup.

Allison Almond
Allison Almond

Yes, but the issue those of us with food allergies are having is, what kind of oil are they frying the sweet potatoes in? I'm allergic to nightshade vegetables, thus having to switch from regular potatoes to sweet potatoes (a morning glory vegetable). But if they are fried in soy/corn/mixed blend vegetable/peanut oil they are "no better" for us than regular potatoes. Which a lot of fast food joints are not taking into consideration before jumping on the "healthy options" bad wagon. grrrrr!

-paulc-
-paulc-

Sweet potato fries have their place in the food pyramid of life.  But, nothing, nothing beats a steak cut fry fried in duck fat.

fishwithoutbicycle
fishwithoutbicycle topcommenter

I agree. They have to be done right. When they're bad, they're REALLY bad. :-(

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