We enjoyed a good deal of team bonding while planning Frites Week, but it’s all fun and games until two editors disagree about something relatively minor and feel an urgent need to blow things out of proportion. This isn’t associate editor George Embiricos’s first time arguing over french fry applications (see: this empassioned Lobster Roll Week debate), nor is it senior editor Jess Kapadia’s first time defending something (see: Sriracha as a hot sauce, not a condiment). So when the discussion of “steak fries: yay or nay?” came up in a fries-centric meeting*, we knew the resulting debate would be not unlike fries themselves: heated, sticky and, toward the end, at least somewhat regrettable.
Our discerning editors faced off over a plate of classic diner-style steak fries at Eisenberg’s in New York City, then huffed off to their desks to hash out their differences via Slack.
Stake your claim on steak fries: yay or nay? And check out who won the argument. You definitely can’t guess.
*You should try this kind of meeting — you get to know a lot about your coworkers by how they take their fried potatoes.
Jess: Let’s talk steak fries.
George: Happy to talk shit fries.
Oops. Steak fries. Pardon the autocorrect.
Jess: Autocorrect would never do that to “steak”!
I think a true lover of fries would see the steak fry as a holy grail of sorts. It’s basically two fries fused laterally into one, while having to undergo none of the processing that implies.
George: Which two fries are you talking about here? I see only a oddly shaped, oversize vessel of blandness.
Jess: Think about two standard fries lined up parallel next to each other, then eliminate the seam. That’s essentially what we’re working with here.
George: So basically just one colossal, calorific fry?
Jess: It’s like a crispy potato-based sausage casing for mashed potato.
George: Leave it to the U.S. to unnecessarily supersize everything.
Jess: Well, if the fry were uniform in length and width that would be a big colossal fry. But given that the steak fry is flatter, you have less inner area to have to cook thoroughly, which is why you’ll typically see them cut in a flatter style than an elongated square prism, say.
George: Oh, Jess, didn’t anyone teach you that size doesn’t matter?!
Jess: Size doesn’t matter; width does. That’s the point I’m making — another advantage to the flatter design is scoopability.
George: Width to do what? Dunk your titanic vessel into a vat of ketchup?
Jess: With your typical uniformly squared-off fry, you’re limited in the amount of ketchup you’re able to lift from the plate.
George: Think about how many innocent tomatoes (or cute little packets of Heinz) you’re about to sacrifice for your precious steak fry.
Jess: Those poor-quality tomatoes had nothing better to do with their puny lives than to sacrifice them for my fry habit. [Donning her best Donald Trump impersonation] When Heinz sends their tomatoes for processing, they’re not sending their best — they’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime…
George: Whoa. Let’s slow down there for a second and talk about this steak-fry habit of yours for starters. Did you know the steak fry is an elitist fry?
Jess: All right, well if we’re STARTING, let’s start with the name: steak fries. That’s going to indicate one of two things: fries that are to be served with steak, or the “steak” of fries, something that typically denotes the “best” of something. These are the cream of the crop of standard-issue fries.
George: Elitist, I tell you! What other fry in this world is automatically and arbitrarily paired with a food, let alone a holy one like STEAK?
Jess: Chicken and waffles…
George: Who says I must eat this gigantic, lopsided excuse for a fry alongside my exquisite hunk of medium-rare côte de boeuf?
Jess: You bring up a good point in that the versatility of the steak fry is such that you can find them alongside any number of non-steak items at your local diner…as well as a place serving côte de boeuf.
George: “Steak fry” is basically a fancy way of saying “meat and potatoes,” which is, as I’m sure you know, the lowest of the low on the basicness of the food spectrum.
Jess: It is, I agree with you there.
George: Transitive property: BASIC = STEAK FRY = JESS.
Also, let’s talk about your point re: mashed potatoes. So, I’m forced to eat this ridiculously large fry that’s basically a mashed potato encased in some soggy fried coating?
Jess: But without the encasement. It’s nature’s gift.
George: Why not just order mashed potatoes then? Or a baked potato? Save myself the calories while I’m at it…
Jess: Steak fries’ textural contribution outweighs any possible kind of mashed or baked potatoes you could order. If you’re having mashed potatoes, chances are there’s nothing else on the plate providing a crispy contrast…unless that’s one hell of a crust on your calorie-saving steak. (And I hope it is, George. I hope your steak has a magnificent crust.)
George: Let me ask you this, Ms. Magnificent Crust: Are you eating your chubby-finger-sized steak fries with a fork and knife? I bet you are.
Jess: It depends on how doused in ketchup they are.
George: Psh. I bet you eat your pizza with a fork and knife, too.
Jess: Neither of us eats pizza, goddammit! [Editor’s note: A fair point. Jess is gluten-free, and George is lactose intolerant.] And nobody likes sticky ketchup fingers.
George: You know who else eats pizza with a fork and knife? Ya boy — Donald Trump.
Jess: He ate pizza with a knife and fork, eh? He shouldn’t call himself a native. That’s shameful. Sit down, Donald Trump. I bet he loves steak fries, though.
George: Fries. They’re meat to be enjoyed as a grab ‘n go snack, eaten with your fingers. The fact that you’re even talking about eating them with a fork and knife makes me disgusted to refer to them as fries.
Jess: Although he might not like them because they’d make his fingers look smaller by comparison. Because steak fries are so huge and magnificent….
George: Oh, they are huge and magnificent. But I thought we already agreed size does not matter!
Jess: Fries are not meant to be enjoyed as a grab ‘n go snack — this isn’t Belgium. They come on the side of your plate! This is ketchup-related! Nobody likes sticky ketchup fingers.
George: Ah, so now all fries should be eaten with fork and knife, you propose? Be sure to ask ya boy Trump to add that as an amendment to the Constitution when he’s sworn in, in February.
Jess: I believe in a fork — no knife — for the last couple of fries on your plate which migrated too far into ketchup territory to be rescued with fingers alone. Sometimes you have to resort to specialized equipment for a rescue mission — tactical operations.
George: I wonder what nickname Trump would come up with for you based on your ketchup flip-flopping here.
Shall I send this conversation to [editorial assistant] Tiffany to edit?
Jess: Yes, please.
George: Okay. I’ll see what else she’s got on her plate for the day. Hopefully not steak fries.
Jess: That last little comment there doesn’t mean you win.
George: Happy to call it a tie and just declare Trump the winner.
Jess: Hear, hear!