Once upon a time, there was no such thing as French fries. This was a sad state of affairs and all the little Neanderthal children would have been unhappy if they had known what they were missing. Mrs. Neanderthal thought about inventing fries, but decided she was too busy to be bothered.
Fast forward through the Incas (who worshiped potatoes), the Europeans (who thought potatoes were poisonous), the invention of the French fry (by either the French or the Belgians—no one’s quite sure), and we arrive at the McDonald’s French fry.
The golden arches boys loved the idea of French fries (as did their customers). But they had all kinds of difficulties trying to get consistency of fry. And McD’s is all about consistency. Many potatoes gave their lives (and their skins) in the pursuit of the perfect French fry.
The McDonald’s researchers eventually discovered that potatoes had to cure (and by “cure” I mean “sit”) for three weeks before being cooked. Three weeks turns out to be the right amount of time to let the perfect amount of sugar convert to starch. (Potatoes cooked sooner have too much sugar and turn brown too quickly.)
In the pursuit of French fry perfection, McD’s researched which variety of spud to use, which type of shortening to use, and which hat looked best for fry cooks. They eventually even created a potato computer (which sounds like a 5th grade science project) to monitor the frying oil.
Many people consider French fries to be a vegetable. This is the same logic that says chess is a sport. By which I mean “not so much.”
Americans eat about 140 lbs of potatoes per person each year. About 35 pounds (yup, pounds) of those potatoes are in the form of French fries.