“All Right... A Pile of Fries!”
Our food critic returns to her roots
Welcome, new readers! Today, I will be talking about french fries, the pre-Reformation Catholic Church, and Kina. Hold onto your butts.
French fries are in many ways the ideal food, living as they do in the cozy overlap of a Venn diagram representing fried foods and foods best consumed in piles. Though I don’t have any data to back it up, it seems uncontroversial to say that French fries are a universally-beloved food (blame Ray Kroc) and should be kept at the ready in any culturally-ambiguous situation—say, while sitting at the FDR Four Freedoms Memorial on New Year’s Day with a bucket of fried chicken from Jollibee (the Philippines’ most famous culinary export). French fries are delicious, but they’re horrible, and so we do our best to save them for special and strange occasions like an outdoor fried chicken lunch on the first day of the year at an austere memorial to Freedom. They are, in short, indulgences.
The Medieval Catholic Church had indulgences right, in a way; they were good for you. A few extra prayers, a nice little pilgrimage, or some money to rebuild St. Peter’s Cathedral in Rome could all buy you a few indulgences, good to reduce your wait time in the afterlife. They were to be pursued at all costs—the more indulgences, the better. Of course, as with so many things, the Protestant Reformation rolled through and turned everything on its head. The Ninety-five Theses get nailed to the door of a church, cast a shadow of shame over the notion of indulgences, and now we have to be conflicted about fries. The Catholics may have invented guilt, but Martin Luther ruined indulgences.
“Guilty pleasures”, maybe, so we can at least acknowledge there’s joy in a french fry. Kina certainly enjoyed them yesterday, as she ripped open the Jollibee bag, assembled the fries into a starchy little mountain, and literally rubbed her hands together in glee. Kina experiences little if any guilt on an average day (in which I, by contrast, am constantly plagued by it), and so her Guilty Pleasure is simply Pleasure. We learn to be guilty with time, as we are taught that french fries are all carbs, full of grease, bad for your blood pressure. These things, of course, are true, but the guilt that we experience when faced with a bag of fries far exceeds the scale of the decision we have to make in that moment. Our Guilty Pleasures are, mainly, Guilt.
But anything goes when you’re Kina, and so you dig right in. A healthy heart, pristine arteries, and the fact that everybody thinks you’re too cute to scold will ensure you get your pile of fries, free of guilt. A life, in fact, free of guilt. Imagine! This is what I mean when I say that Kina is a monster—there is no regulation, no terrifying Pontiff of her id to draw her back from the precipice. She sees a fried mango pie and she literally grunts, guttural, monstrous. It is a thing of beauty, and I have no intention of taking it from her anytime soon—because, of course, it means I get to eat a couple of fries.