Freedom Fries for Surrender Monkeys

8 Jul

When we were kids my sister and I used to man a small, “portable” frier called a Fry Daddy.  We’d stand on the cement near our picnic table, by the side of the house, and make fries.  This was the last step in a process that involved washing, cutting and a whole lot of anticipation.  When they were finally golden brown we’d pop them on to a paper towel-covered plate that stood waiting and sprinkle salt liberally.  From then on it was just a matter of time, a delicious waiting game until the fries were no longer a danger to our tongues.  They were heaven and still my favorite fries in the world.  I, unfortunately, have a lot of experience in this arena.

Now for the freedom fries and surrender monkeys bit.  Not everyone is a fan of France.  Some people are not a fan of pants or looking at the road while driving, so that’s not saying much.  I wanted to understand a bit better where these two neologisms came from.  That’s my new word, neologism (pronounced “nee-oh-low-jih-sum”).  It means a recently coined word and is something that English knows a bit about being we have 500,00 words to bat around.  The French, for example, have 1,000 words.  But let’s not start chanting “we’re number one!” yet.

Bart sez "Sacré bleu!"

Let’s start with surrender monkeys.  We can thank Groundskeeper Willie for that.  If you watch the Simpsons you may remember him teaching Springfield elementary kids French and referring to the French as cheese-eating surrender monkeys.  As the Mister can tell you, the Simpsons makes for good quoting material and this phrase caught on.  I was listening to a Rick Steves podcast (I know!  Me?  Listen to Rick Steves?) and he mentioned that it’s easy for Americans to call the French this as we haven’t had a war on our turf since the Civil War.  Perhaps if our downtown was bombed to bits we might be more eager to seek peace.  Or not.  War’s good for jobs, right?

Anyhoo, the term freedom fries came about when the French took a stand against the US invading Iraq in 2003.  Some wanted to ban all things French including fries.  Little did these people know that the French in French fries actually refers to the cut and not the country.  The same as julienne is a style of culinary chop-chop, so is Frenching.  And you thought that just had to do with kissing!  It’s just a bit wider cut.  So you can French potatoes, like we do, but you could still do the same to carrots or Spam.  The fries themselves were an invention of the Belgians.  Along with the saxophone, I might add.  But that’s another story…

A true Belgian-style fry or frite (pronounced “freet”) requires two trips into the hot fat.  The first, at a lower temperature, cooks the fry.  The second, at a hotter temperature, makes the fry puff up and crisp on the outside.  They then dunk the fry in mayonnaise to eat and probably drink some artisinal beer.  I’ve heard a few Belgians admit that though the mayo is tradition they’ve found a deep love for pouring malt vinegar on as the Brits do. 

Let me go on record here as being pro-France, pro-French fry and pro-Belgians and their inventions.  After all, they gave us the Smurfs and some wicked good tapestries.  If you’re in to that sort of thing.  If not, there’s always the Simpsons.

Oh and one last thing… if you really do want some freedom fries you can still get them.  You’ll just have to visit Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar and Grill.  There you can get them as a side with your fried bologna sandwich.  Just bring a good American attitude and some R-o-l-a-i-d-s.



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