This fascinating New Yorker piece describes the transformation of French fries from a relatively obscure food to a market giant.
It also details how they changed from being an already unhealthy food to being a truly terrible one, and a major factor in the obesity epidemic.
The modern French fry was primarily the vision of Ray Kroc. He visited the first McDonald's hamburger stand in San Bernardino, California in 1954 because they were using eight of his five-spindle Multimixer milkshake machines.
He flew there to learn more about the operation.
Beyond the shakes and hamburgers, what really captured Kroc's attention was the way French fries were made. Soon after buying the franchising rights from the McDonald brothers, Kroc brought the lessons of the manufacturing world to the restaurant business, with an evangelical emphasis on making French fries of consistent quality everywhere, all the time.
Over time, French fries gradually became more and more unhealthy, most recently because of the use of trans fats in the deep-frying process. Nonetheless, the average American now consumes 30 pounds of French fries each year.Gladwell.com
If you've ever wondered how French fries became the health-harming staple of fast-food diets around the world, one of the worst foods anyone could eat, and a huge money-maker for McDonald's, the largest of all fast-food restaurant chains, this excellent New Yorker piece will give you the inside scoop.
Potatoes are already harmful enough in their natural state, as the simple sugars they contain are rapidly converted in your body to glucose that raises your insulin levels. Preparing them in cooking oils and at high temperatures make the biggest difference of all, however, spurring the formation of the cancer-causing chemical acrylamide.
With all the attention paid to the health risks associated with harmful cooking oils, however, McDonald's recently made the switch to a trans-fat-free frying oil, albeit long after competitors like Taco Bell and Wendy's did.
Even so, French fries are a food that does no benefit to anyone's health and well-being.
Even without trans fats, foods that are fried in vegetable oils like canola, soybean, safflower, corn, and other seed and nut oils are problematic. These polyunsaturated fats easily become rancid when exposed to oxygen, and produce large amounts of damaging free radicals in your body.
They are also very susceptible to heat-induced damage from cooking. What is not commonly known is that these oils can actually cause aging, clotting, inflammation, cancer and weight gain. You can read the article Secrets of the Edible Oil Industry for more information.
I am fond of telling patients that one French fry is worse for your health than one cigarette. You might not believe it, but that has been my experience after treating over 20,000 patients.
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