Freedom Fries

freedom fries by Anthony Freda

Freedom fries is a political euphemism for French fries used in the US as a result of anti-French sentiment during the controversy over the decision to invade Iraq in 2003. France expressed strong opposition in the UN, leading to boycotts of French goods and the removal of the country’s name from products. 

Representatives Robert W. Ney (R-Ohio) and Walter B. Jones, Jr. (R-North Carolina) declared that all references to French fries and French toast on the menus of the restaurants and snack bars run by the House of Representatives would be removed. House cafeterias were ordered to rename French fries ‘freedom fries.’ This action was carried out without a congressional vote, under the authority of Ney’s position as Chairman of the Committee on House Administration, which oversees restaurant operations for the chamber. 

The Embassy of France in Washington, D.C. made no comment beyond pointing out that French fries come from Belgium. Critics also asserted that ‘French fries’ were called such because they are ‘frenched,’ or thinly sliced, although this might be a false etymology; the first American reference to French fries was made by Thomas Jefferson, who referred to them as ‘potatoes, fried in the French Manner.’

Congressmen Ney and Jones were not the first to rename French fries, Neal Rowland, owner of the privately owned fast-food restaurant Cubbie’s in Beaufort, North Carolina began the movement by selling his fried potato strips under the name ‘freedom fries.’ He explained that the name change came to mind after a conversation with a history teacher about World War I, during which anti-German sentiment prompted Americans to rename German foods. Sauerkraut was renamed ‘liberty cabbage’ and hamburgers renamed ‘liberty steaks’ or ‘Salisbury steaks’ (a name that remains in use). 

In 2005, Representative Jones, having arrived at the belief that the US went to war ‘with no justification,’ said of the ‘freedom fries’ episode: ‘I wish it had never happened.’ By 2006, the House had quietly changed the name of the two foods in all of its restaurants back.


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