Freedom fries are cheaper than French fries. Photo via
Do you dream of eating in a restaurant that gives you flashbacks of how divided our country was in 2003? That unwanted situation recently came true for me in a restaurant in rural New Jersey, near the New York state border, called Elias Cole. The exterior of the building made it look like a German restaurant, but the menu listed off American comfort food. Shortly before I opted to order the meatloaf, I was surprised to see “freedom fries” listed on the establishment’s menu.
Those same fries were a side for the hamburger deluxe, which, the menu indicated, was a hamburger on a French roll. I was perplexed by the chef’s choice to plate “freedom fries” and a “French roll” on the same plate. It was like he was the new UN ambassador.
Surely, if you were on the earth in 2003, you may recall the patriotic and conservative trend of certain restaurant establishments changing the French in French fry to freedom. Wikipedia says that this can be attributed to Bob Ney, the chairman of the House Administration Committee, who renamed fries in three congressional cafeterias as a reaction to France’s opposition to the invasion of Iraq. At the time, it was being proposed by the US.
But Walter Jones, a US congressman from North Carolina, has also been given credit for this term. Jones sponsored a bill in 2003 that would have required French fries to be changed to “freedom fries” in capitol cafeterias. Ironically, he changed his mind about the whole thing two years later because he changed his perspective about the war itself. He even told a North Carolina newspaper that he regretted the whole French-fry fiasco.
The taste of freedom. Photo via
Freedom fries are nothing more than deep-fried potato strips. In North America, it refers to any long piece of fried potato. Some restaurants adopted the freedom fry term to show their solidarity and support for the Iraq war, but most of those same establishments changed the word back to French fry within a few years. But like Elias Cole, some across the nation have stuck with freedom fries' flag-waving name. Is it from a lingering pro-war statement, a general presentation of patriotism, or just a disinterest in reprinting restaurant menus?
While I was sitting in the booth at Elias Cole, I figured that most of the waitresses were probably toddlers in 2003; they looked too young to fully grasp the meaning behind the freedom fry term to me, so I set out on a quest to contact restaurant establishments that continue to serve freedom fries with staffers who look old enough to recall those awful events that took place around September 11, 2001.
My Friends Place Grill, a grill in Little Rock Arkansas, doesn’t serve fries because of the way that the French “downplay” the United States. Galla’s Pizza in Atlanta Georgia changed the menu to freedom fries because of a friendly dispute between family. Bob Galla, the owner, told me his father was very pro-American, and his sister was living in France at the time of the Iraq war. The father changed it, and then he passed away in 2004. The restaurant kept it to remember him.
Brownies Hamburgers in Tulsa, Oklahoma, serves freedom fries because of France’s refusal to help support the United States during in the Iraq war. Cliff, a cook there, told me, “If you go to McDonald’s, they just call them fries. On the board it just says fries.”
He then passed the phone to Tracy, a waitress who had been working there for a “long time,” who told me, “When the French wouldn’t help us in Desert Storm, there was a gentleman who worked here. He was a former Marine so there was some patriotism. So they changed it during that time.”
Cliff was very right about McDonald’s. The fast-food chain used to serve French fries, but now they’ve altered the menu to simply call them fries. “While our menu board simply says fries, the side was called French fries on the 1955 original McDonald’s menu,” said Paul Reyes, director of marketing at McDonald’s USA. “We continue to call the menu item French fries in training manuals and other materials, but have shortened our menu board to just fries.” There was no insight given as to why or when French was knocked off the starchy item.
Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill, a chain restaurant that that the country singer opened in 2005, also sells freedom fries. When I contacted their corporate offices, nobody got back to me as to why freedom fries are sold, and none of the managers in individual chains could tell me why.
After a blogger had mentioned freedom fries alongside French toast in a restaurant called Bagel Me! in Villa Park, California, I called it up and spoke to a waitress on the other line who had a very thick accent. I told her that I was writing about freedom fries and was looking for a quote about why they continue to sell them on their menu. She repeatedly informed me that they were “just regular fries.” She seemed frustrated and confused, so she put another woman on the phone.
“The fries that we have,” the other woman told me, “the name is freedom fries, but it’s just regular fries. It is the same, so I don’t know why you are asking about that. She is explaining to you that it is a regular fry.”
“Yeah. I get that,” I told her.
“Do you want it?”
“No,” I said. “I’m not ordering food. I was telling your co-worker that I’m writing an article about places that call fries freedom fries.”
“Ohhhhhhh!,” she said. “We don’t know nothing about it.”
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