French fries are like black clothes: they go with everything. But what about when French fries go … au naturel?
You order French fries with the idea that you will eat the French fries with something. Americans mostly use ketchup, though some will use mustard or a combination of ketchup and mustard. Canada likes the vinegar, regular and malt, mayonnaise, and, of course, poutine.
French fries can come with nacho cheese or chili or both. Garlic fries, angry fries, buffalo fries — just about any combination of foods mixed in with French fries works as a snack, meal, or obsession.
Can you, can we, actually eat a serving of French fries sans vêtements? Naked? Without a condim-ent?
Yes, the idea of eating French fries by themselves feels as foreign as celebrating a food with the word French in the title. Eating French fries by themselves: sacre bleu!
In restaurants where the alternative is high-fructose corn syrup laden ketchup, I sometimes choose to eat them plain with the sandwich I've ordered. But some French fries are so boring that even I open up the HFCS ketchup. True, I do smuggle ketchup made with sugar into numerous establishments, but I'm not always that prepared.
Sometimes I will swirl mustard and ketchup, reducing the impact of the HFCS and cutting down the sweetness. I will beg for malt vinegar whenever I get the chance; the good news is that more places in the States will carry malt vinegar.
If a restaurant does do fries really well, I don't mind eating them plain with the sandwich. A local bar puts a dry seasoning on the fries. They aren't technically naked — you can still see and taste most of the fries.
People use condiments with French fries either out of habit or because the fries really aren't that good. Back in the days when I ate way more McDonald's French fries, I did like them without condiments for part of the meal. Since the company switched away from trans-fat oils, the taste is so bland that the few times I eat them, I need something to go with them.
I find McDonald's on the Canadian side of the border more tempting because they use the Canadian Heinz, made with liquid sugar. In fact, I had some of the McD's fries in Windsor, a temptation that isn't that strong back home, even though I can walk a mile to a McDonald's.
Making your own French fries at home with real potatoes brings up a different challenge. The good news is that you are using real potatoes; the bad news is that your fries are more likely to taste like potatoes. So many restaurant and frozen fries are designed to taste little like actual potatoes. We are used to that taste, for good or bad. So people are actually more encouraged to use condiments on potatoes to drown out that potential potato taste.
If you are one of those people who offers up baked fries as a healthy alternative, chances are you are still eating them with ketchup or some other condiment.
We eat French fries with condiments because they go so well with them. Like black clothes, French fries make a great accessory to any meal. But we can't be afraid to eat French fries sans accoutrements. And if the taste of those fries isn't that good without any condiments, then you should start eating better tasting French fries.