Outrage. Some get angry about police brutality, others about flags; my cause is french fries.
I take fries seriously. Very seriously. For a large part of my life, french fries were the closest I got to vegetables, and in some ways, they were as close as I got to food. I probably shouldn’t be this bothered by something so seemingly inconsequential… but I am. French fries are life.
The article in Baltimore magazine says that Thrashers serve their fries “…doused with malt vinegar”. Not true. I’ve been going to Thrashers fries in Ocean City, MD since I was a kid, and not once have I ever seen malt vinegar anywhere near Thrasher’s. Not once. Apple cider vinegar? Yes. Salt? Yes. Malt vinegar? No. Never. No ketchup, no mustard, no gravy, no cheese, no Old Bay (even though it’s a Maryland staple), and most certainly no malt vinegar. I’ve been in line many times when a tourist unfamiliar with the ways of Thrasher’s has asked, “Where’s the ketchup?” or, “Whadya mean I can’t get no nacho cheese?!?” and the closest I’ve ever heard to an explanation was, “That’s a Baltimore thing, we don’t do that here”
There are, and have always been, only two options for condiments when it comes to Thrasher’s fries: salt, and apple cider vinegar.
What’s the difference? A lot actually. Malt vinegar isn’t the same thing as apple cider vinegar any more than white vinegar is the same thing as brake fluid. They taste different. Taste is important when one is talking about food. If they cooked them in coconut oil instead of peanut oil, people would notice, and they would complain. The other difference is that one of them has been the type of vinegar that Thrasher’s has provided for decades, and the other has not. EVER.
My guess is that the guy who wrote this article has probably been to Five Guys a couple of times and assumed that, “boardwalk fries are boardwalk fries”, and has probably never set foot in Thrasher’s. (If you’re reading this and just thought to yourself, “Hey wait a minute, Storck doesn’t know what he’s talking about here, it’s impossible to set foot in Thrasher’s… it’s carry away only.” I congratulate you. You’re the same type of fact-checking stickler that would take umbrage with getting the vinegar wrong too.) Don’t get me wrong, I love Five Guys, but they serve malt vinegar in lieu of apple cider vinegar, and I don’t care for it. I always thought it odd actually that they went with the malt when such a well established french fry vendor uses the apple cider variety.
Maybe this writer has been to Thrasher’s once and didn’t quite pay attention to what type of vinegar he put on his fries, or perhaps he asked someone about Thrasher’s while he was multi-tasking at his desk, but he got it wrong. Why did he get it wrong? My money is on him not knowing what he was talking about, not doing the research, and no one else catching it before it went to print.
If you haven’t been to the place that you’re writing a story about at least do your goddamn research. A simple Google search would’ve informed him which two condiments Thrashers offers, and even a few gripes from people complaining that they don’t offer gravy. He doesn’t even have to leave his desk to do that.
I guess it’s probably a symptom of a larger problem: the direction journalism is heading towards. Online journalism has been hurting print and newspapers, which means the newspapers have less money to pay professional journalists, which translates into errors, slip-ups, and lax fact checking. Granted, this isn’t the Daily Telegraph or Le Monde we’re talking about here, and it’s not a story about what Chancellor Angela Merkel blurted out at a souvlaki stand, but I think it’s important. (because it’s about my favorite french fry establishment)
The other issue I have is that it’s not just a blurb or stupid side article, it’s the main article of the entire issue. It’s on the cover. It would be like if The Economist had an entire issue dedicated to comic strips, and the cover read, “You’ll love this issue more than Garfield loves manicotti!” Everybody knows Garfield loves lasagna. It’s what he’s known for. That, and hating Mondays. The only reason you’d get that wrong is if you’ve never read a Garfield strip in your life, and didn’t do any research. This was the number one item in a list of fifty, in an article that’s on the cover, as the main theme of the entire issue. Get it right.
Am I insane? Yes. Do I care way too much about french fries and how they’re made, what goes on them, and everything about them? Probably. Have I broken up with girls for eating my fries without asking, stabbed my brother in the hand with a fork for attempting a fry steal, and gotten in unnecessary arguments about what constitutes the proper girth of a perfect fry? You betcha. I’m crazy when it comes to french fries. I’m so unflinchingly passionate about them that some of my friends have coined the phrase, “Look out, Storck is about to go down french fry lane”. It’s a well understood admonishment that one is about to poke a hornet’s nest.
And don’t even get me started on poutine.