Food For Thought: French Fries

So, if french fries taste so great, why does almost everyone I know dip them in something? I was having a mad craving for a burger and fries this weekend, and as part of my “no restrictions” eating plan where I won’t put any specific food off-limits, but have to eat with thought, slowly, focusing on the food and ending when it doesn’t taste as good as the first bite, I noticed these things about fries:

  • They’re dry. This first realization was confusing until I washed it down with my accompanying soda. No wonder we have to supersize our drinks!
  • They’re bland. Sure, they’re salty. But that salt is coming from an addition to the fries. Not the fries themselves.
  • Not only did I want to dip them in something, but I don’t really know anyone who doesn’t dip their fries in something. Why have I never realized this before? I guess this is what happens when I focus on my food! Anyway, I love McDonald’s fries dipped in sweet and sour sauce. I also love their chicken nuggets dipped in the same thing. It’s funny McDonald’s charges for dipping sauces now, and since they started charging I stopped going there because the fries aren’t worth eating without sweet and sour. I should have realized I wanted the sauce more than the fries but I didn’t. At other locations I’ll choose BBQ sauce. And I’ll admit, with much embarrassment, that I also do ranch dressing. I think it’s gross how us Midwesterners dip everything (mostly fried foods) in ranch. And worse, many midwest places will ask if you want ranch with fried foods

So, why are we so insistent on fries if it’s the dipping sauce we love? We aren’t going to eat the sauce alone. I had a friend who once drank ranch. She said it wasn’t awful. But most people aren’t going to eat it with a spoon. (Much like I love cheese dip but have to have chips or tortillas or something to dip it up with.) I feel like there are three things at play here:

  1. We like the texture of crunch on the outside, soft on the inside. And we like the flavor of said sauce, which also cuts down on the dry factor. So the flavor/texture combo wins.
  2. We get rewards in our mind’s pleasure center from both the fat and the salt. I assume there’s also subliminal rewards from knowing the food is off-limits.
  3. If we order a hamburger and a drink, the fries are practically free. So we get the fries because they’re a “free” side, and we are used to having them around when we want a burger. The burger isn’t complete without a side. So it’s a correlation thing for my brain. Well done, fast food marketing!

So, in short, why do we love fries so much if they don’t even taste that great? They don’t taste gross. But they don’t taste good, aside from the salt sprinkled on top. They lack flavor, are dry, and aren’t worth eating without the dipping sauce.

Try really tasting your fries next time. I think you’ll be surprised to realize they aren’t as good when you actually taste them.

Now burgers on the other hand? Delicious. It’s going to be tough breaking that craving.

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