Boise fry guy pays homage to pommes frites

“Fries! An Illustrated Guide to the World’s Favorite Food” by Blake Lingle (Boise); Princeton Architectural Press ($16.95)
“Fries! An Illustrated Guide to the World’s Favorite Food” by Blake Lingle (Boise); Princeton Architectural Press ($16.95)

“Why do we make fries? Because they make us happy.”

How true. Blake Lingle, founder of Boise Fry Company, wrote these words in his entertaining and fact-filled book about “fryography.” He says it’s not a cookbook. Rather, it’s “loaded with heaps of conjecture, food verbiage, exaggerated yet appropriate jokes at the expense of the French, and sarcasm.”

It is clear how much Lingle loves fries, and with his restaurant’s tag line “burgers on the side,” he promotes the idea that “fries can and should stand on their own.”

Indeed: “Fries are about to revolt. They’re discontented with their side-dish status. They’re tired of carrying multibillion-dollar corporations such as McDonald’s on their back. They’re upset that despite being the most widely sold food-service item in the United States, they’re considered an afterthought. They’re ready to be the subject of a plate (and of this book).”

“Fries! An Illustrated Guide to the World’s Favorite Food” contains history, definitions, a timeline of fry evolution across the world, types of fries, types of potatoes, nutritional values, various fry condiments and sauces, recipes, as well as how they are made, where they are grown and where they’re consumed — in short, nearly everything about one of the world’s most popular and favorite foods.

Lingle traces the history of fries and potatoes dating back to 2500 B.C. in Egypt, with subsequent trips to Rome, Chile, Peru, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, France and the United States. He pays homage to Idaho, particularly the J.R. Simplot Co., which invented the mass-produced fry.

Lingle does include some scientific data and historical research, and the result is educational and entertaining without being overly academic. All the chapters are interspersed with illustrations and photos, many by Idaho Statesman photographer Joe Jaszewski.

It is difficult to read this book without eliciting the salty and scrumptious taste of fries. There are a few recipes and tips on making the delicious side, including tools, slicing strategies and seasoning. Lingle shares how to make them at home, how they’re made in restaurants and how factories make frozen ones. He also includes a list of what they’re called and how they’re made in countries across the globe, as well as references in art, music, politics, advertising and literature.

As Lingle notes, the book is filled with humor. For example, to procure a potato, he advises, “Drive to a corporate farm under the darkness of night while wearing a Batman costume. Use your grapple gun to climb over the presumably barbed-wire fence. Dig up and then steal a potato. Flee. That, or buy a potato from the grocery store.”

Overall, Lingle’s book is an enjoyable and interesting read. Because he owns a restaurant dedicated to the slicing and frying of America’s favorite vegetable, there is no one better to write a “fryography.” For the best reading experience, read with an entree of fries.

Cheryl Oestreicher is head of Special Collections and Archives at Boise State University’s Albertsons Library.