Friday, December 17, 2010

Diasporic Dining XX: The Potato Wars

Wendy’s recently introduced a new form of French fry aimed obviously at competing with McDonald’s French fries, which have long dominated the market. As you may remember, the old Wendy’s French fry was a rather flaccid affair, larger and less crispy than its rival and with no real reason for being. The only reason to buy the old Wendy’s French fries was because you were there, marooned, eating one of their assez bien burgers, which made up in texture what it lacked in taste. It’s an axiom of fast food dining that one doesn’t order one element of a meal in one place and another element somewhere else (even in a food court, where opportunities for promiscuity are everywhere). If one is going to buy a cheeseburger at Wendy’s, then why not get the special, which includes a drink and fries. Ditto McDonald’s. So what is the significance of Wendy’s new foray into the French fry fray? The answer is that the world has changed. Despite McDonald’s famous fries, the Big Mac was always the main attraction, and the lines were drawn according to who liked Big Macs and who didn’t. Now, with Americans becoming increasingly calorie-conscious and meat-averse, the potato is the driving force. Wendy’s execs have made a brilliant move in putting the potato at the top of the food chain. Their new fry, made with sea salt and russets with skins, hearkens back to the Woodstock era, with its appeal to natural ingredients. And if they are going to make love not war with their new product, they have, at the same time, created a world-class adversary in the upcoming potato wars.

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