“You should go to Mac D’Nalds, said Anthony. “No way in hell,” said I, although in truth, McDonalds…or, as the French say, Mac D’Nalds is just about the only place to solve the problem.
The problem is that I am in frite deficit. Frites, dammit. French Fries! Since the accursed covid lockdown of every restaurant and cafe in the country, le confinement, I have not had a single frite, and I am in need. Oh yes, Beloved has served up those oven fries, the frozen ones you bake in the oven, and we have tried to talk ourselves into believing they were nearly the real thing, “Mmmm, not bad.”
Well, not bad ain’t great. And frozen, oven baked frites are as satisfying as kissing your sister. Real frites, the hot, crispy on the outside, soft and yummy on the inside kind…are great. And I haven’t gone this long without a real frite in my entire life, I am quite sure.
Thing is, neither Anthony nor any of our other French friends are as distressed as me; they’ve been having frites uninterrupted throughout the confinement because very single household in France has a kitchen appliance virtually unknown in the US. Seemingly every single kitchen in France has a deep fryer for the express purpose of making real frites. The things are as ubiquitous as a coffee maker or microwave; in the US, people see a deep fryer in your kitchen as a virtual death sentence.
Last weekend, in the first glimmering hint that things may be moving toward normalcy, the next village down the road held a Fete des Artes…an art-themed street festival, a kind of small town event that is common here in France. It was a return to crowds of local folks mingling, chatting, and yes, eating street food. The sun was shining, the air was almost warm, there was a happy feeling everywhere as folks got to enjoy this kind of gathering for the first time in more than a year. And there, right there in front of the church, amid the artists and the craft persons, was a most thrilling sight, a frite tent…hot, fresh frites for sale! I could barely contain myself.
“Look! Look! They’re selling frites! “I practically yelled to Beloved, who was surprisingly uninterested.
“”Yes, I see. Go have some. I’m going to look at Jewelry.”
“But Honey, look! They’re selling frites!“
“Nice. Look, there are plants for sale.”
“Oh, there’s pottery too.”
I could see this was going nowhere, so got my own darned frites, found a table and ended my Year of No Frites in hot, crispy bliss. I was so happy I even let her have one.
It was this episode, related to Anthony the next day, that prompted him to suggest I could have had frites all along, had I gone to Mac D’nalds. But the fact of the confinement and the closing of all of the restaurants in the area except for takeout, has resulted in absurdly long lines at the McDonald’s drive thru, extending out of the parking lot and onto the road, with waiting times, according to Anthony, as long as 45 minutes. To get take out. From McDonalds, which most Americans view as a last resort, but which the French continue to view as something slightly exotic and exciting.
I have, for more than two decades, avoided McDonald’s in France with a near religious fervor. But I must confess there was this one time. It was really more of a science experiment, so I believe I am absolved of guilt. We had been visiting France for several years, and one night while driving back from a long day trip, the hour was getting late, I was more than a little peckish, and there was nothing to be seen in the way of restaurants on our route, when we espied a McDonald’s. I slowed the car.
“You’re not going to go to McDonald’s, are you?” I heard from my immediate right.
“Yes, I’m really hungry and there’s no other option.”
“Can I get you something?”
“”NO!” She sat there radiating an air of smug superiority as I headed in to the Golden Arches, where I was immediately stopped in my tracks by a young lady who approached me and asked me for my order. Well. That was new.
The menu was a bit of a challenge, but we were only talking about burgers, after all, and I successfully managed to order what passes for a double cheeseburger, and fries. Back in the car, the smug silence was eventually broken.
“So, how is it ?”
“The fries are excellent, thank you, as you should expect being in France. Want one ?”
“NO. What about the burger?”
“Honestly,” I said, “it is better than what you get in the US. But in the end it is still a McDonald’s.” To which I heard an audible snort of satisfaction.
Thus ended my science experiment, for which I have been doing personal penance ever since. And there’s no way homey is waiting 45 minutes in the drive-thru line for frites, even if “Mickey D” is wearing a beret and smoking a Gaulois.