Restaurant in Maine Receives Threats After Changing Fry Style

Remember about 15 years ago, when people started calling French fries and French toast "Freedom fries" and "Freedom toast?" Congress got so angry over France's lack of support over the proposed Iraq invasion that Congressman Bob Ney, chairman of the Committee on House Administration, ordered the three Congressional cafeterias to change their menus as a way to stick it to the French.

Never mind that French fries and French toast don't actually have anything to do with France at all.

And let's not even discuss "Freedom kissing."

French toast is named after the guy who introduced it to America in 1724, Joseph French. According to legend, French was an Albany, New York innkeeper who didn't understand how apostrophes worked, so when he promoted his concoction, he named it "French toast," not "French's toast." However, the dish is much older, with recipes dating back to 1st century Rome.

French fries are so named because the method of cutting the potatoes into sticks and then frying them in boiling oil. The term was first used in the mid-1800s in a British cookbook, but the name is most likely related to the old English term "frencisc" that means "to cut lengthwise."

By the early 1900s, "French fried" came to mean anything that was deep-fried in oil, including onion rings and chicken; French fries were originally called "French fried potatoes."

Belgium and The Netherlands make the best fries in the world with the right amount of crispiness on the outside and fluffiness on the inside. When you get them in either country, they often come with a special kind of French fry mayonnaise called "frite sauce."

And if you just made an "eww" face even though you've never tried this, 1) don't make your mind up about things you've never tried, and 2) this isn't just dipping a fry into a glop of Hellmann's (which is also good). It's a special sauce you get in Belgium and The Netherlands, when you place your order at the pomme frite stands, or "fritkots."

In the 21st century, it seems like everyone has their own style and preference for French fries, which is weird, since I just told you where the best fries are from.

There's the straight cut (the traditional way), the crinkle cut, curly fries, waffle cut, and steak fries or potato wedges. I hesitate to call this last style a French "fry," because its size and thickness is more like a piece of baked potato someone accidentally dropped in the fryer.

I don't like steak fries and silently judge people who say this is their favorite. It's like saying your favorite bird is the hippopotamus.

When we go out to eat, I order mine extra crispy because most restaurants' fries look as pale as a Minnesotan on the first day of summer. But when I order them my way, they usually come out a golden brown, which is what they should be.

I asked some Facebook friends about their favorites, and most of them preferred straight or crinkle cut. Several people liked waffle fries for their dippability, but a few said they preferred steak fries, which only shows that I make questionable choices in friends.

People feel passionately about their fries, and some friends said they would stop visiting a restaurant if they ever changed their fries. Several people were upset at Burger King and Wendy's for changing their recipes years ago, but were only mildly disappointed.

Not like in Maine. Some people got downright angry after Bolley's Famous Franks changed the way they make their fries.

For years, Bolley's in Waterville made crinkle cut fries, which people loved. For some, it was the best thing they made. A couple of dogs, an order of crinkle cut fries, and life was grand.

But this past June, Bolley's changed their fry style from crinkle to straight, and people lost their minds. Not only did people get angry enough to swear at employees, there were even threats of violence.

Jim and Leslie Parsons, the owners of Bolley's, made the switch because the blades they cut the fries with — they're fresh cut daily — were flimsy and had to be replaced every month.

Jim told the Kennebec Journal that he had spent thousands of dollars in replacement blades ever since he and his wife bought the restaurant in 2017. In fact, half the money they made on the fries went into replacing the blades.

But people were so upset at the change they would swear and rant at the servers and cashiers, including the Parsons's daughters, which made them worry for their family's safety. One man was so angry that he became disorderly around the customers. He was kicked out and then threatened to fight Jim right there in the restaurant.

Look, I understand people have their traditions and pleasures in life. One of mine is pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving. It's just not Thanksgiving unless there's at least one slice of pumpkin pie, thick and gooey like my stepdad's mom made.

But I don't become verbally abusive when my pumpkin pie is light and creamy. I don't want to punch somebody when my pumpkin pie is not the consistency of elementary school paste.

As Leslie Parsons said on the Bolley's Facebook page, "If you’re getting into fights over French fries, you’ve got bigger problems."

Like if McDonald's ever tried to change from Coke to Pepsi? Then we'd have something to fight about.

Photo credit: Kham Tran (Flickr, Creative Commons 2.0)

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