We are the first nation to practice revisionist cooking. That’s right, cooking. The restaurants in our capitol building have, in an act they are claiming is a political statement, changed the names of French fries and French toast to “freedom fries” and “freedom toast.” The saddest part is that many private restaurants are following this lead.
My problem with this, besides it being a horribly petty response, is that it is the most ludicrous thing we, as a nation, have ever done. Changing the name of something, just because we don’t like the people it’s named after, is only deceiving ourselves.
I frankly don’t know whether or not I agree with France’s stance, or their politics, but I do disagree with renaming dishes so that they are more politically correct. The most astonishing thing is that this act actually has precedent.
During World War I it was decided that saurkraut should be called “liberty cabbage.” Take that Germany — we ate your cabbage and didn’t even give you credit. That however, was slightly more understandable. We were at war with Germany. They were killing our soldiers, we were killing theirs. As ridiculous as it was, it was at least understandable as to why we might do it.
French fries have been “French” fries since at least 1894. That is their proper name. Additionally, they are a staple of American food, alongside pizza, frankfurters and hamburgers — soon to be renamed patriot pies, democracy dogs and bravery burgers respectively.
Shakespeare’s Juliet once asked, “What’s in a name?” I’d tend to say, quite a lot. Sliced and fried potatoes don’t represent freedom. Battered fried toast doesn’t either. If you want to hate France, go ahead. Be my guest. But don’t diminish our language while you’re at it. There is no problem hating France while chowing down on French fries, and changing the name doesn’t actually do anything useful.
This newspeak is problematic. We might as well become completely Orwellian and rename everything we don’t like thoughtcrime. It would make things a lot simpler. I don’t need fancy things like “real names” for foods, objects, places or people, I can just get the distilled version.If there is one thing we should learn from this whole ordeal, it is that the French are wittier than we. Because while we butcher our linguistic history, someone in France set up a Web site to get donations to send Bush “Peace Pretzels.” Not only is it funnier than what we did, it shows a level of intellectual maturity lacking from our new food naming scheme.
Powell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.