Today, the New York Times uncovered a dark truth: French fries are not healthy. Did you know?
“If French fries come from potatoes, and potatoes are a vegetable, and vegetables are good for you, then what’s the harm in eating French fries?” asks the paper’s Christopher Mele, before launching into an extensive explanation of the fry’s many dangers.
For example, a study published last year in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that, “controlling for other risk factors, participants who ate fried potatoes two to three times a week were at a higher risk of mortality compared with those who ate unfried potatoes.”
The article goes on to illuminate more (somewhat self-evident) dangers of potatoes, especially fried ones, which, coincidentally, are the most consumed vegetable in the US. Americans eat an average of 115.6 pounds of white potatoes per year; according to Agriculture Department statistics, two-thirds of those “are in the form of French fries, potato chips and other frozen or processed potato products.”
Buried in this warning, amid various suggestions to mitigate the impact of fry indulgence — be wary of excessive condiments; eat homemade baked fries instead — is a brilliant proposal.
“There aren’t a lot of people who are sending back three-quarters of an order of French fries,” laments Dr. Eric Rimm, a professor in the departments of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health. “I think it would be nice if your meal came with a side salad and six French fries.”
It would be nice! Is it possible the solution has been so simple all along? A side salad, and just a handful of fries for good measure, enough to bask in the supreme pleasure of fry-eating without being forced to exercise otherworldly self-control or to fork over the cost of a full order. It would be a bite of fry. An essence of fry. A fry-nibble. Not a commitment to FRIES, but enough to have partaken in frydom. A casual fry-fling.
I am certainly not advocating this be the only option: Full orders of French fries should, of course, continue to exist. Fries are delicious, and foods do not have inherent moral value. I want to rob no one of their fry experience. Nor am I suggesting that salads cannot be pleasurable. I am skeptical that most fast-food side salads are pleasurable, but this is a logistics problem, not a categorical one. Salads: often good, sometimes transcendent.
I am simply suggesting that in many circumstances, it would be an ideal option. Consider the following: You are at dinner with a companion, who has ordered fries. You, on the other hand, opted for the salad. But you would like a fry. Just one fry. Two fries. Perhaps three fries.
“Can I have a fry?” you say. What if, though, you did not have to ask? What if you, a self-sufficient individual, could just order your own three or six or nine fries? Are these not modern times?
Or: You are at dinner with a companion, who has ordered a salad. You, a person who wants fries, have ordered the fries. “Can I have a fry?” they say, longingly, and you oblige, because that is our social contract. Wouldn’t it be better if they could just order their own A Fry?
Or: You are alone, which is also a great way to eat. You want to order the salad. Leafy greens. A good tomato wedge. For any number of legitimate reasons — health, taste, appetite, how your digestive system might feel later, a craving for arugula — you don’t want a full order of fries. Wouldn’t it be great if you could just order a side salad with a side-side of fries? Would this not radically overhaul your life?
What if, for that matter, fast food offered an a la carte tapas menu? A Nugget; A Tater Tot; A Fry. Haven’t you ever wanted whatever your order was, and also a lone nug?
Is this a good idea, from a business perspective? Almost certainly not. So let’s aim low, together. Let’s focus on fries — a handful, a sampling, a six-pack of fries.