Lefsetz Letter » Blog Archive » Krinkly Fries

The dentist tells Phyllis to eat ice cream. He had just had her implants replaced, and when Phyllis wandered into Camden to get to her car, she came across the new Shake Shack for a milkshake and french fries.

Shake Shack started with French fries. I am not a fan. There were too many potatoes in it. Even worse were the steak fries. I’m not saying I wouldn’t eat them, it’s just that they’re less satisfying. Shake Shack eventually switched to a narrower fry but then switched back, I’m not quite sure why. Really a fan of krinkly french fries? Or did I say “krinkle”? I don’t know, I always call them “krinkly”.

It was the only thing we had at the time. You know the ’50s, that decade is fading into the rearview mirror. We hear about conservatism, the birth of rock ‘n’ roll, but real life…becomes dark. Not that I remember too much, I was born in 1953 after all. But I do remember “The Mickey Mouse Club”. I don’t remember “The Show on Your Show” and all the early TV breakthroughs, but the ones that came later, like “King of the Sky” and “Crusader Bunny,” those stuck in my mind.

We were totally different when we were kids. Our parents weren’t worried about “screen time,” at least not until we were old enough to do homework, which for me was in third grade. The TV would be on around five, and the three of us were eating in front of the black and white TV in the downstairs playroom. There’s only black and white, and that’s all we know. The color breakthrough didn’t really come until the sixties. TV screens are no longer small, they are just the right size, rectangular, about twenty inches on the diagonal.

We’ll probably see Zacherle at five. When I was in junior high a few years later, “soup selling” was all the rage and we all imitated White Fang, but the fascination faded after he hit the big time with “mouse.” You see Soupy is underground, it’s different when everyone knows him.

Dinner time is six o’clock. By the time we go to school, we all have dinner together, but until then, the kids will finish eating before my dad comes home. And my mother, who never wanted to spend time cooking, didn’t think it mattered, served us spaghetti or shells long before it was even labeled “pasta” and baked in the oven french fries.

This has been around long before there were home fryers, let alone air fryers. The french fries we eat at home are replicas of the real thing, you just take them out. And I always eat them cold because I save them for last. Well, lukewarm.

As for going out…

Back then it was all about hot dogs. The stand we went to had bacon on the bottom of the rolls and they even sold chow mein sandwiches. But in the early ’60s, the Rocket Drive-In, which was built on this street, was a novelty that served not only hot dogs but hamburgers and fries as well. Yes, the old standard Kuhn’s doesn’t serve fries, and although it does have burgers, no one orders them. Can you believe that burgers didn’t dominate until McDonald’s broke through?

It’s a bit like baseball and football. Hot dogs were king, like baseball, until they were replaced by football-like hamburgers.

Anyway, we went to the beach in the summer. My mother would give us money to buy things at the stalls. It’s part of the experience. That’s not to say we didn’t bring food, cookies, and drinks, it’s just that our kids loved wading through the sand, queuing, and ordering, and our purchases often went out before we could even get back to our blankets.

So what are our options?

Fudge, ten cents. Hot dogs are a quarter. French fries are fifteen cents. Or you can get a frozen candy bar. The best is Charleston Chew, but they don’t sell it on the beach, which is rare, and we ended up making them at home, like root beer ice cubes, remember when that was? maybe not.

The beach fries were crinkled. I realized a long time ago that they are best eaten cooked. Sometimes they are more cooked and satisfying than other times, but if you want that taste, that feel, the only place you can get it is deep frying.

Then McDonald’s broke through. Tiny hamburgers, which were years before Big Macs, let alone quarter pounders, were fifteen cents, and french fries were ten cents. Not oversized. French fries are a treat and a resistance. They’re the reason you buy a hamburger and why you go to McDonald’s. As far as burgers go…they’re so small you can always taste the pickles. fries? They’re little shoelaces, and it’s a whole new thing. That means there are hardly any potatoes in it, it’s all crispy. McDonald’s salts them more than the average store, and even when they’re soft, they’re a delicacy, but you know, you have to eat them right away, and they’re best served hot.

Then chips became a thing. McDonald’s earned respect. Oh yes, before the late sixties the rumor was horse meat and McDonald’s was a joke. Then there are the copycats, like Burger King, not to mention Wetson’s and Hardee’s. As for the independent stands from the sixties, they’re still there, they serve exotics like fried clams, but they can never get the fries right, and if you want good fries, you really need to go to McDonald’s.

In the end, the little ones won, and they were everywhere. Sure, there are curly fries and spicy fries, but they’re a delicacy. You go to a few places specifically to get them, and very few agencies serve them.

The seventies were the heyday of the aforementioned steak fry. It’s pointless, you might as well have a baked potato that you can dress up. All the toppings, the sour cream, not to mention the butter, scallions, bacon…that was the era of steak and salad bar restaurants. They’re a little bit upscale. There are some lower class chains that sell steaks for a few bucks like Sizzler, Ponderosa, and Bonanza, but they’re terrible, and they’re for people with no taste. A good steak can cost six or seven dollars. What about the salad bar? The final price point is higher, ten to fifteen dollars.

Then the steak and salad place disappeared. Even chains like Chart House have closed restaurants. We’ve seen the emergence of fancy steakhouse chains like Ruth’s Chris, French fries don’t have a place on the menu, they’re low class and don’t deserve to sit next to the steaks on offer.

Lace fry are king.

Oh, and I never really mentioned traditional french fries. It’s like a wrinkled but not wrinkled one. They predate French fries. Then they die. But they’ve had a resurgence, as the greasy potato treat that’s the Five Guys specialty. They’re not the dry chips of yesteryear, more of the slippery stuff that makes you feel like you’re in the ghetto.

We love slums.

We know we shouldn’t be eating chips at all, let alone fried food. Not only seniors know this, but some cooking show stars have also gotten into personal trouble for frying concoctions, as has their own health. It used to be a regular feature in grocery stores, and magazines featured a picture of a chef who ate clean, lost weight, and suddenly became healthy.

But the food industry tries to make bad food, not just fried, but processed, addictive. Eating healthy is a constant battle. In addition, healthy eating costs more. In a perfect world, vegetables would be cheap and fried foods expensive, but that’s not the case. Ultimately, this cheap food kills, which is another reason why poor people live shorter lives. They get sick from eating bad food, then they don’t get proper treatment because it’s so fucking expensive, and then they die.

But if you’re educated and have some cash… french fries are a no-no. Like drugs. You want to take them, but you know you shouldn’t.

So Felice texted me about the Shake Shack milkshake, but when she got home and opened the bag, she also ate some chips. Crumpled. Can’t say I’m interested, I could do without.

But then Phyllis said she wanted some.

Oh, and I took the green light. After nearly half an hour of driving, they were a bit soaked. But the edges are crispy. Heinz ketchup has an added coating on the packaging that reminds me of my youth, I mean I don’t even eat ketchup that often anymore, it’s kid food. They have fancy mustard, but do I even have to put fancy ketchup?

And the curly fries were undercooked, which happens quite often. The bottom of the paper boat still had some residue, you know, little pieces of fry that fell apart, a little bit overcooked, and it was so satisfying.

I can’t say I’m wolfing down chips. I’m scared of eating too much, they’re for Felice after all. But I asked her if I could have some more and she said yes, my whole life flashed before my eyes as I bit into the french fries, all the french fries I’ve eaten over the years, decades, half For more than a century. I suddenly have the urge to tell you.

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