I fail to understand the deep-seated connection between food and fries. In case you are a little baffled, prepare to be baffled even more.
Eating out in the UAE is a foodie’s dream come true. So many cuisines to choose from. Such rainbow variety tickles the palette. Food is readily available everywhere, across all the Emirates and is presented well. And the common thing in all this is, fries on the side.
French fries finds its way in just about anything that you can imagine to order. Burgers always had them. Shawarmas have them stuffed inside. Kebabs have them jostling for plate. Fish come with the chips. They can also be ordered as a separate plate! Fries sure enjoy some status here in the UAE! Or do they?
Having said that, the first thing that also gets thrown in the bin, in any food court is also the humble fry! Abundance of fries on all plates of varying cuisine have made them commonplace. So when the kebab or shish-tawook or burger is over, the fries slide off into the trash. I wonder how many kilos of potatoes get wasted everyday. I have also made umpteen requests on radio on my show not to order chips or to moderate quantity and not throw them. I do have my doubts if anybody heeded that advise. Hey! The chips come in cheap!
So I started this new habit of not asking for fries. Wherever I went to eat, I made sure that I request the waiter not to give me any fries. Now, a simple request like that threw me some unexpected reactions.
In a posh Iranian restaurant, the waiter froze when I pleaded that my cello kebabs and rice should not have any fries. He counter-pleaded by saying that the fries come free. I smiled and tried again. He looked baffled. Whispered that the cost of the fries is in-built in the dish I was ordering. He just didn’t understand why I was refusing them. Quite audaciously, he got the fries stacked beside the fragrant rice and I immediately had it sent back to the kitchen. The Iranian, now quite out of patience and understanding, gave me my cello kebabs sans the fries muttering that there would be no reduction in prices for the ‘no-fries’.
At a popular Lebanese restaurant, my request elicited smiles and hushed-asides! I was seriously wondering, what the big deal with no-fries is! I just don’t want them, because I would waste them. I said exactly that to the (almost filmstar-like) Lebanese boys behind the food counter. They exchanged something in Arabic that I wasnt keen to find out and said to me that everybody loves fries’! Nobody ever asked not be served them.
Now that is exactly my point. Obesity is huge fatty monster in the UAE and some of the blame is earned by the fries as well. Supermarkets have bags of frozen potatoes sliced into fries. Those cold fries suck more oil and salt than freshly cut potatoes. Deep fried potatoes doesn’t sound like a ‘hearty’ idea! Nobody cared. Local families gorge on fast food and the pile of fries is enough to feed a flood-afflicted family.
I am also violated at the use or should I say, the forced mating of these mis-placed French Fries. Wonder who came up with the idea of stashing fries with everything? Come off it. Please.
Clearly, the over-use of the simple finger fries has left it with no gastronomic status. It is stray. It is pedestrian. It is orphan.