March 23, 2014

For the Love of Fries!

My take on food is as informed as a Frenchman's on spiciness, thank you very much.

My friends can swear on the fact that I am the worst person to be taken along on a binge excursion, or if one is trying out a new restaurant or a new dish. It is true, though. I have a digestive system of a hamster. I am nauseated and feel a physical compulsion to throw up even if something strikes me even a tad funny-tasting. That's why I have grown an aversion to all the spongy foodstuffs like cakes and pastries just because I ate a cake on my birthday, as a kid, and realised I am allergic to eggs. That's why for a long time, I thought I was allergic to even cottage cheese because I ate some weird Chinese starter and threw up later. I realised after several years that I wasn't allergic to it, but my dislike for Chinese food still prevails. Anyway, so I have established that I am a fussy eater.

The upside, however, of being a fussy eater is that if there is stuff that you actually like, you'll love it enough to have it as your staple diet. Of all the several things I can think of, one of them is French Fries.

I judge a restaurant on the quality of French Fries it serves. Although no restaurant would give a fuck about the judgment of a Fussy Eater like me (yes, capital F and capital E!), I adamantly believe that French Fries are to a restaurant what socks are to an ensemble. Just like a sane man will never put much thoughts beyond playing it conventional with his socks while pulling off an attire even when he's dressing up for a special occasion, in the same way, most restaurants would hardly take any efforts to ensure their Fries are well-made. And when one says 'well-made', one doesn't need any validation by an eminent food blogger, neither does one need to be an omnivore or an omnidigestor. I always order French Fries at almost every restaurant I go to, especially the ones which are cuisine-oriented. These restaurants think that they might reap the benefits of their offres principales. and no one would care much about a side dish which you usually order as a distraction to your hands while you're chatting with your friends till the main course arrives. When someone wears an interesting pair of socks - even bordering on tastefully quirky - one can appreciate their efforts in putting in a thought behind a garment that's hardly going to be noticed or visible. My judgment of a restaurant is based on the same principle. 

Some of the best restaurants where I have ordered a plate of French Fries disappointed me. There were places where the Fries were served in miserly quantities in bowls smaller than a soup bowl, were at room temperature, could've been classified as fried potato shavings or were oily enough to tick off Gordon Ramsay. The French Fries can be made in a gourmet way as well, if you will, employing molecular gastronomy and all that. But by their own virtue, they are not the kind of food which - like wine - requires one to acquire taste over a period of time. So however fancy-ass the restaurant might be, if a Fussy Eater is not impressed by their French Fries, the French Fries are not good enough. Period. I shall leave the critique of the rest of their menu to the abler bellied.

But then, I have eaten the best of the French Fries at some nondescript restaurants as well. They were the kinds which actually distracted you from the conversation around the table and made the hand-to-mouth movement consciously voluntary and anticipating of flavour. I get a welcoming and an inclusive vibe from such restaurants which serve good Fries. They seem to have a motto which promises that no stone is left unturned while preparing even the least fancy dish.

Just to make my adulation for the Fries simpler and seem less crazier, allow me to share with you my criteria for good Fries. For them to be well-cooked, the Fries should (be):
  • adequately salted,
  • of right thickness, 
  • hot, 
  • taste as if your grandma is hiding in the kitchen personally frying you a batch, 
  • hot, 
  • whichever unit crispiness is measured in, that precise unit level of crispy, 
  • not be limp,
  • hot,
  • in such a large amount that you again feel that your hiding grandma used a bigger plate just so that she could throw in some extra fries for you,
  • present in a right secret ratio of crispy to crunchy (it's always a delight to find a surprising piece of French Fries crunch, but neither too often nor too few and far between),
  • very hot,
  • actually taste spicy, when they say spiced French Fries; and are not served with chilli flakes sprinkled on them as an excuse for the added price and adjective.
  • and hot. Have I mentioned it enough already?
Nothing can be more depressing than eating the first grab of Fries off the plate and realising it does not adhere to all the commandments listed above. You might as well order a pitcher of lemon iced tea and drink it without caring for the right balance between the lemony flavour and tea-ish flavour. If you find yourself in a situation where you get a bad plate of Fries and the short end of the stick, muster the courage to return the former. Because you have no idea the kind of happiness real French Fries can give you.

Pearls Before Swine: Describing French Fries in an apt way.