After a weekend eating my way through Detroit and the ensuing breakfasts of leftover square-shaped, cheese-crusted pizza, I figured I should eat a salad at the Philly airport while I waited for the connecting flight back to New York City. But once back on the ground in my sleepy Financial District neighborhood, a familiar craving hit. The glorious, oily scent of battered taters beckoned, and it took all of my adult sense of self-restraint to just go home and unpack. It's a constant battle.
"Most of us don't have a single fry moment. We have fry moments," Blake Lingle, the co-owner of Boise Fry Co. in Idaho and newly minted author, says in Fries! An Illustrated Guide to the World's Favorite Food ($17), released earlier this month.
There's never been a truer statement for me. I'm constantly craving any fried potato-y things (just ask my sweet potato-obsessed desk mate, Abby), and this tiny but information-packed book contains pretty much everything one needs to know about those beautiful, slender, crunchy beams of sunshine.
Fries! is a fascinating rabbit hole Lingle pulls you into. He breaks down the basic definition of a fry (and he's very adamant about calling them just fries, not french fries, due to vague origins): strips of potatoes deep-fried and served hot. Then Lingle wanders through the halls of history, trying to pinpoint the birth of the universally beloved spud, from ancient Roman cookbook Apicius, which was one of the first to call for fried vegetables, to 15th-century Spaniards learning the art of tempura and perhaps applying the technique to the humble tater before others caught on. He lays out the ultimate choose-your-own-adventure chart (check it out here) of possible fry outcomes based on type of potato, as well as nitty-gritty details, like "Is starch foaming atop the water?"
However, after reading page after page of intense fry information, you begin to wonder: Where are the recipes? Thankfully, there are a few in the book, from the classic fry, which requires you to don a Batman costume and steal potatoes, to oven fries. Bliss awaits, one gurgling pot of oil or hot oven away.
"Why do we make fries? Because they make us happy," Lingle says. "Why do fries make us happy? Because they do."
Oh, how they do.
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