Put the French Back in Fries

By Gus Tyler

Published April 04, 2003, issue of April 04, 2003.

The eatery where the members of Congress go for their chow no longer serves “french fries,” serving “freedom fries” instead.

This dramatic and dizzying deed is not without precedent. During World War I, sauerkraut (a German word) was changed to “liberty cabbage” — and we won the war. So, why not try it again against France, with whom we are not at war — at least, not yet?

But there are questions raised by this action. What shall we do about “french toast?” Call it “freedom toast”? And what shall we do with signs that say “French cuisine”? Shall they be changed to “freedom cuisine”?

It doesn’t end there. What shall we do about place names — like Louisiana (named for a French king), Lafayette (named for a French general) or Vermont (French for “green mountain”), Des Moines (French for “the prairies”), Terre Haute (“high land”) or New Rochelle (which, believe it or not, means “small rock”)?

A bigger and more serious question to consider is why whoever runs the congressional dining room chose to pick on the French and neglected to take on the Germans. They have also been resistant to our president’s timetable for war against Iraq.

Logic strongly suggests that if we intend to wipe out references to the French, we should, out of consistency, apply the same measure to Germany.

Why not begin with “hamburger,” a word based on its origin in the German city of Hamburg? If it is too clumsy to call it a “liberty loaflet,” we could simply change the first letter and call it a “samburger,” in honor of Uncle Sam.

What about the Pennsylvania city named King of Prussia? Now that really is German. In the light of our president’s touted religious devotion, we might change King of Prussia to “Prince of Peace.”

Then there’s Eisenhower Park in Long Island. “Eisenhower” is German for an “iron worker.” All we have to do is insist that from this time forward we refer to our respected ex-president as Ike Ironworker. And how shall we handle Bismarck, the capital of the state of South Dakota? Bismarck was not only the military tyrant of Prussia, he was a “terrorist” who overran France. If Bush had been president at that time, he would have been obliged to declare instantaneous war against Bismarck. Perhaps, we should change Bismarck to Bushmark as a post-mortem reference to our president’s crusade against terrorists everywhere.

And then, there’s a word that turns up all over the country: “delicatessen.” That word is both French and German. “Delicat” is basically French for the English “delicate.” And the word essen is German for “eating.” To allow it to be used should be verboten. Oops. Excuse me. Verboten is a German word. It is therefore forbidden. Should we perhaps ban “delicatessen” in favor of a more appetizing English “exquisite eating”? Such a change, while accurate, lacks patriotic pizzazz. So, instead of “delicatessen” how about “Saddam sandwiches,” similar to the Jewish hamantashen, the little dough pockets prepared at Purim to signify Jews devouring the pre-Hitler Hitler called Haman.

It’s all so superbly silly.



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