The Easily Amused Expat

Franse Fries
It’s usually the fresh-off-the-boat expat who finds fascination with every little new thing, but even when you’ve been in your new country for years, little things — even things you’ve seen on a regular basis — can suddenly jump out at you and remind you that “we’re not in Kansas any more, Toto”.

I’ve been having one of those moments recently as I’ve been passing some of the local McDonalds restaurants. There’s one on the main street through town (the street that seems to change names ever three meters, but that’s another post) and one on the Oudegracht. The picture is of the one on the Oudegracht, but it was the one on the main street that first caught my eye recently.

Sure, we get the occasional market-specific dish, which is usually something to do with kip saté, but it’s not that kind of poster that stood out this time. This time, it was something as simple and normal and ubiquitous as the French fry. In Dutch, fries (or chips, for my British readers) are usually known as patat or friet (or patatjes or frietjes, because the Dutch love adding the diminutive to everything. It’s adorable.) The choice of word tends to be more regional, with patat seeming to be more northern and variations on friet are typically more southern. As an expat, I say both, because I don’t know where I live any more.

French fries is a fairly American term, resulting from American troops eating fries for the first time in Belgium but associating them with the French language they heard at the time. Or so the story goes. In fact, here in the Netherlands, I don’t really remember seeing the “French” addition to the name. I’m sure the occasional restaurant might use it, such as an American-style diner or something, but otherwise, the only place you’re more likely to see “Franse Frietjes” is at McDonalds.
Franse Fries
And that’s what is amusing me. The posters for “Franse Frietjes”. Perhaps it’s standing out since I don’t see the “Franse” addition often, or maybe it’s just amusing to see such an American term translated.

Or maybe it’s because subconsciously it reminds me of this scene in Better Off Dead:

Weed Sauce and Fries

Plassend Mannetje
Remember the scene in Pulp Fiction where Vincent and Jules are discussing fast food in Europe, including the fact that the Dutch use mayo on their fries? Well, if Tarantino wants to do an updated version, he can talk about one of the new sauces on offer at Manneken Pis, a famout chain where you can get fries to go.

Manneken Pis is famous for offering a variety of sauces for the fries (frieten/patat) they sell. You can even choose multiple sauces, such as the famous patatje oorlog (war fries), which is usually peanut sauce and mayo, with or without chopped onion. This is more of a traditional Dutch choice, but I suspect the new flavor is going to be a big hit with the tourists. You see, the new sauce is a wietsaus (weed sauce). And no, we’re not talking garden weeds.

However, if you’re looking for a buzz from your fries, think again. It turns out that the hemp flavor used for the sauce contains none of the hallucinogenic elements of THC. All of the earthy flavor, none of the fun. I have to say, the hemp hand lotion I use never makes me particularly hungry when I smell it, but I’m sure someone — gullible tourists? — will go for it. If you want to try, it’s for sale beginning Thursday at the three locations in the center of Utrecht and one in Amsterdam.

Oh, and in other non-appetizing news, Manneken Pis means “little man pee” and is the name for the famous Belgian statue/fountain. Well, the Belgians are famous for their fries. Since I don’t have a photo of the shops in town, I went with the Dick Bruna version of the manneken pis.

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