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!
SWEET POTATO FRIES
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.
(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)