For those who didn't see it at Insty, here is the link to making the original McDonald's fries. I still think they are going to be more magical than they are when I drive through on occasion. The article mentions that they do not hold quite their flavor as before, and need to be eaten almost immediately now. I am even more aware of this, as finding a spilled fry in the car a day later - which used to be a lesser, but worthwhile nibble on its own account - is now a "why did I bother?" moment. Unless of course, I eat french fries anywhere else, which causes me to hanker for even a carmat McDonald's fry.
While Sokolof’s victory dealt a blow to the corporation, it wasn’t exactly a win for consumers, either. Exchanging beef tallow for pure vegetable oil in high-temperature frying introduced consumers to a different and arguably worse dietary threat than saturated fats: trans fats, which, as we now know, are a major cause of cardiovascular disease, digestive issues, and weight gain. Despite the best intentions, Sokolof ultimately made a bad problem worse, one that McDonald’s has spent decades trying to fix. They’ve bounced new ingredients in and out of their frying oil to reduce the levels of trans fat, claiming today to have essentially eliminated them from their fries.
I dispute that "best intentions" claim. There were some good intentions behind Sokolof's crusade, but they weren't best. Best would include keeping up with the nutritional science we had even then. We knew genetics was involved somewhere. We knew that other oils had different problems. Best would acknowledge that he was making it up as he went along while thundering from his pulpit. Best would include the admission that he hoped to stop people from eating french fries at all. We now know that fats are a problem for some diners, but starches are for more of them, and focusing on the beef tallow was a minor issue, straining at gnats while swallowing camels.
I did not work for the chain, but I did work for Howdy Beefburger in the late 60s. Howdy sir, may I help you? Would you like some crisp hot fries with that? My brother worked for McDonald's, which was always a source of mixed shame and pride in a suburban town. Tangentially, it is that brother who trained me in alertness to that word "best" which I referenced above. Even now, if I use the word better he will challenge "What do you mean, better?" It is said humorously and can be irritating, but it is nearly always a useful question and I have learned the lesson pretty well at this point. It hardly needs saying that the word "best" would draw an even more intense, mock-horrified challenge. Which is fair. I don't think I have dared use the word in his presence for twenty years.
Three sons and a semi-son worked at McDonalds in the early 2000s, after the Great Fry divide. The two Romanians remembered McDonalds from its magical appearance in Oradea, where they were born but then lived an hour away. Given the history and economy, it was not a cheap downmarket restaurant but moderately expensive, exciting event. Clean restrooms - unknown in most of Europe but even more so in Romania. Servers who were polite to you - ditto Europe, Romania. Heat in winter and air-conditioning in summer - ditto Europe, Romania. Consistency - uh, Europe, Romania. But most of all, the flash of America and the outside world. And beer. You could get beer at McDonalds in Romania. Which might have made it even more perfect in America, though it does verge into the "What could go wrong?" category.