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How Fried Are You?

April 17, 2011
"Hm! French fries is delicious!"

Image by alles-schlumpf via Flickr

I just read a short article about Wendy’s new Natural Cut french fries.

I’ll admit that I’ve always liked Wendy’s.  The burgers are square and messy.  Back in the day, the tables were covered in old timey advertisements, which are always good reading.  The mascot isn’t some cannibal clown fattening up children for the Great Feast.  Instead, you get lured in by a siren.  A tantalizingly young, rich, fire-headed strumpet in pigtails.

And my mum would take me there after baseball games, so I got to eat in a swirling tornado of victory, red Georgia clay and sweat.  Like Pig-Pen with a ball cap and a Frosty.  What could be better?


OK, sure it doesn’t sound like much.  It’s just the addition of some skin.  But we love that skin.  It looks cool, it makes it seem like you might be eating an actual potato.  How could this turn of events irritate me?  Of all people?  The most laid back son of a bitch this side of the Pecos?

I read this quote from the article:

What they didn’t manage to do, however, is make the fries an actual all-natural product. That, says CMO Ken Calwell, would be too difficult given fast food customers’ demands for items that are cheap and can be hoisted through a car window.

“People are saying they want high integrity ingredients, things their grandmother would have used, that don’t look like they came out of a chemistry lab,” Calwell explained in an interview with BNET. “But they’re also saying I’ve got a family to feed and can only afford to spend about $4 on my lunch, and I’ve only got about a minute or two to eat it.”

Ken seems to  be saying that people want real food used as ingredients.  I can dig that.

He also seems to be saying that not only do we want real food, but we would like it to look sort of food-like.  OK.

He also is suggesting that our target cost for a family is very low.  I can imagine.  These Trying Economic Times and all that.

The problem is that the concepts of real food and low-cost do not play nice in Ken’s world.  Particularly for the mass production of those fried spud sticks on every corner of Your Town.

It is understood, therefore, that the consumer really wants to be subtly lied to.  Sell us Natural Fries, but charge us for Ready T0 Eat Potato Flavored Starch Substitute Rectangles.

What the hell is it?  Who cares!  As long as it’s cheap and tastes like salty, crunchy, heavenly fuudproduct and the menu says something like “healthier” or “natural” or “locally fabricated”.

The fries are sprayed with sodium acid pyrophosphate, a chemical that prevents them from turning brown from two baths in frying oil — one at the factory and the other at the store. They’re also dusted with dextrose, a sugar derived from corn, for similar purposes.


Wendy’s frying oil is dosed with dimethylpolysiloxane, a silicone-based chemical that helps keep the vegetable oil from getting foamy after countless rounds of frying.

Wendy’s Natural Cut fries are also frozen like everybody else’s, even though it’s a big point of distinction for Wendy’s that their hamburgers aren’t.

But, they…oh..

Wendy’s has also highlighted that it uses “100% Russet potatoes,” but John Keeling of the National Potato Council says that this is not a selling point. “Virtually all processed French fries are Russets,” he said in an email.

I should just get some potatoes and make my own damn fries.  If I actually ate any fries.  I kinda prefer chips.  Some kind of jalapeño or habanero flavored chips.

OK, sure, it says “natural cut” not “wholly natural”.  What the hell makes something natural cut?  Did they use an onyx-bladed knife?

So which is it, Ken?  Is there really any reason to call these fries more “Natural” than any of the others?  Or is Natural referring to the consumer’s preferred state of being – fat, dumb and happy?

Side note to Melanie, who was nice enough to give us the article:  What is your fascination with that over-hyped, over-priced burger joint that you keep mentioning (and which I will not)?  Date with Wendy sounds nice.  Date with five dudes?  Sounds painful.

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