One of the best pieces of food writing I ever read was by MFK Fisher, a food writer (of sorts, anyway) from the 1930's and 1940's, on the joys of a beloved dish: mashed potatoes with ketchup. You might say yuck, but the way she described it--the preparation, the buildup to the first bite, the smell and texture and taste of the food--made it a complete experience for me. It was almost better because she claimed to have only eaten the dish once after years of anticipation, a sort of mashed potato martyrdom that made her vivid recall even more fascinating. It made this somewhat childlike food somewhat transgressive, and therefore more appealing.
And so, in the spirit of MFK Fisher, I have a confession: I adore frozen french fries. With store-bought ranch dressing. I don't eat them that often, but every few months I'll spend a few days eating french fries for dinner, which seems almost like blasphemy in light of how frequently I cook "real" food normally. But they are my comfort food of choice, only recently replacing Amy's Soy Mac'n'Cheeze; they are the food I come back to when I am tired and can't face the thought of chopping anything and it takes me a while to even get up to preheat the stove, the food I want when I'm sick or hungover or just grumpy. So what if they're bad for me? So is heavy cream. I love the crisp outer shell that gives in to the soft grainy interior, the sweet tang of the dressing, the bite of the black pepper and salt I cover them with. Potatoes have long been one of my favorite foods, and frozen french fries (in a mass-produced, unethically grown and processed, and full of extra ingredients sort of way) epitomize what I love about them. For me, potatoes are about texture, warmth, fullness. Comfort.
(I also once compared potatoes to calculus, and I was totally serious. The warm fuzzy feeling I get when eating well-prepared potatoes is very similar to the satisfaction I felt working through a derivative in my high school calculus class.)
I'm in the middle of French Fry Week right now, and I've been getting fancy. Today was a long day at work; I was out too late and too debaucherously last night, and then I spent my afternoon making four bridesmaids bouquets, one corsage, and about a million table centerpieces. When I got home, my feet hurt and my brain was numb, so after a sufficient amount of time decompressing, I got up the energy to turn the oven on. I tossed my Ore Ida Extra Crispy Crinkle Cuts with olive oil, salt, and pepper before baking them, and then I tossed them again with feta cheese (!), and then I ate them with cheap peppercorn ranch. (Next time I'll add basil, and maybe garlic power.) They were fabulous.