Sweet Summer Spuds

A healthy twist: Sweet pota­toes are a great way to still en­joy french fries, and stick to your new sum­mer diet.

Bon­jour! Vive les Frites!

On Ju­ly 14, 1789, re­volu­tion­ar­ies stormed the Bastille, a pris­on in Par­is that rep­res­en­ted roy­al tyranny. The King and his Queen, Mar­ie Ant­oinette, didn’t “make it out of Dodge” in time. They met their fate by be­head­ing at the guil­lot­ine, or “Na­tion­al Razor.” Could this turn of events have been aver­ted if Mar­ie Ant­oinette had not uttered her fam­ous line, “Let them eat cake,” to the bread-starved Parisi­an poor?

Fast for­ward to Ju­ly 2014 out­side the gates of Philly’s “Bastille.” There’s a make-be­lieve Mar­ie Ant­oinette and a real guil­lot­ine. But the cry that will be heard this Sat­urday at East­ern State Pen­it­en­tiary is, “Let them eat Tastykakes!”

Philly cel­eb­rates Bastille Day with Tastykakes that are flung from the ram­parts of the pris­on in Fair­mount for the crowds to catch. This could pose an op­por­tun­ity for the Phil­lies to send some scouts. (Just say­ing)  

We’ve cel­eb­rated In­de­pend­ence Day last week with a cake. So what food should we eat for this day? French fries, of course, but with an Amer­ic­an twist. Let’s use sweet pota­toes. Full of Vit­am­in A, these pota­toes are healthy.

It’s our cus­tom here to eat ketch­up with fries. In France, Pommes de Terre (apples of the earth) Frites (fries) can be ac­com­pan­ied by may­on­naise, Di­jon mus­tard, ketch­up or a sort of mayo-like sauce. This con­di­ment called “sauce pommes frites” is sold in French stores, and sauce pack­ets are avail­able at their Mc­Don­ald’s.

There is an on­go­ing dis­pute as to wheth­er french fries are really French. Did they ori­gin­ate in Bel­gi­um? Food his­tor­i­ans claim pota­toes were fried in Bel­gi­um in the late 1600s in the city of Namur. Amer­ic­an sol­diers sta­tioned in the Bel­gi­um Ar­dennes in World War I were among the first Amer­ic­ans to eat french fries. Since French was the of­fi­cial lan­guage of the in­hab­it­ants of the re­gion, our sol­diers called these pota­toes “French” fries. Oth­ers claim that frites were first sold in 1789 just be­fore the French Re­volu­tion by street vendors on the “Pont Neuf,” the old­est bridge in Par­is. Who to be­lieve?

Enter Ant­oine-Au­gustin Par­men­ti­er (1737-1813). He pushed the potato as a food source in France and across Europe. As a French Army phar­macist dur­ing the Sev­en Years War, he was cap­tured by Prus­si­ans and forced to eat pota­toes. Al­though the potato was in­tro­duced to Europe in 1640, out­side of Ire­land it was fre­quently used as an­im­al food. The French fed pota­toes to hogs, and the French Par­lia­ment had banned potato cul­tiv­a­tion on the grounds that it caused lep­rosy. After the war, Par­men­ti­er re­turned to his post at In­val­ides Hos­pit­al in Par­is. His pi­on­eer potato stud­ies in nu­tri­tion­al chem­istry promp­ted the Par­is Fac­ulty of Medi­cine to de­clare the potato ed­ible in 1772. But res­ist­ance to eat­ing pota­toes con­tin­ued. Par­men­ti­er per­sisted, and hos­ted potato parties that in­cluded guests such as Ben­jamin Frank­lin. His potato gar­dens were armed with guards who al­lowed thieves (at Par­men­ti­er’s re­quest) to “steal” pota­toes, and he gave potato vine bou­quets to the king and queen. In 1785 the potato crop provided food from the fam­ine in the north of France. By 1795, pota­toes were grown even in the Tu­iler­ies Gar­dens to help re­duce an­oth­er fam­ine.

The fol­low­ing pommes frites re­cipe uses sweet pota­toes that are baked rather than deep-fried. They are crispy and golden right out of the oven – tres bon!


4 sweet pota­toes, peeled and cut in­to ½-inch wide slices, then cut again in­to ½-inch strips

2 eggs, beaten well

½ cup fresh pars­ley, chopped or ¼ cup dried

4 sprigs fresh thyme, chopped, or 1 tsp. dried

3 gar­lic cloves, minced

½ tsp. salt

¼ tsp. pep­per

1¼ cups Panko crumbs

- Pre­heat oven to 475 de­grees.

- Line a large bak­ing sheet with alu­min­um foil. Spray foil with can­ola oil.

- Beat eggs in a large, shal­low bowl.

- Com­bine pars­ley, thyme, gar­lic, salt, pep­per and Panko crumbs.  Toss to mix, and place this crumb mix­ture on a large sheet of waxed pa­per.

- Dip sweet pota­toes in­to egg. Shake off ex­cess. Toss in Panko crumbs to lightly coat.

- Spread sweet pota­toes in single lay­er on pre­pared alu­min­um foil-lined bak­ing sheet. Don’t crowd the pan.

- Bake un­til fries are tender and golden brown, turn­ing oc­ca­sion­ally. Bake for about 30 minutes.

- Trans­fer to plat­ter and sprinkle with a little ad­di­tion­al salt.

Bon Ap­pet­it!

(Ques­tions or tips can be sent to Donna Zit­ter Bor­de­lon at Whats­cook­in­NEPhilly@gmail.com or in care of the North­east Times, 3412 Pro­gress Drive, Suite C, Ben­s­alem, PA 19020)

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