Friday, May 12, 2006
My dad flying a kite with my son Nicolas in the shadow of "Freedom Avenue"
I never really understood that whole "freedom fries" thing. As an American living in France, of course I heard about the fact that some fast-food places in the US had changed their menu panels to read "freedom fries" in place of "French fries". And I think according to the press the French were supposed to have been incensed and/or insulted, but the reaction I observed from real live French people was more a bemused bewilderment, kind of like "What the...? Those wacky Americans, what will they think of next?"
Of course it's just some sort of naming fluke that french fries are called "French" at all. If you ask the French, most of them will tell you that the idea of preparing potatoes like that is really more Belgian. So if they didn't want the word "French" on their menu panels, they could have changed it to the more appropriate "Belgian fries". I won't even suggest that Americans might have just stopped serving up french fries and eating them because, hey, let's not go totally overboard here!!! ;-)
The thing that was kind of unfortunate about it was that the whole fries/chips thing is one of the points where the French and Americans agree!
You know how the Brits say "chips" for the things Americans call fries? Well, what do you think the French call them? They call them "frites" which means "fries"!! (or really "frieds" if you want to get technical).
You also know that Brits say "crisps" for those things that Americans call "chips". Well, what do you think the French call those? They call them "chips"!!! The same exact word, just like in English!! Well, American anyway...
And here the American fast-food industry was working to mess up one of those points where Americans and French can join hands together in ganging up on those silly Brits, just like the question of which side of the road you're supposed to drive on! (You know, and like that whole Revolutionary War thing.)
My husband (who is French) thought the term "freedom fries" was hilarious, and felt that it was perfectly appropriate that the word "freedom" should be associated with France in this manner. Now when we visit my parents in the U.S., whenever he sees other random things that happen to be named after France, he finds it entertaining to replace "France" or "French" with "freedom".
For example, not too far from where I grew up, one of the main roads leading into Minneapolis is called "France Avenue". (Look closely at the sign in the above photo.)
This is one of those places where there's an alphabetical series of avenues (such as "Abbot Avenue", "Bryant Avenue", "Charlie Avenue", etc.), so the name of the road is less a tribute to the country of France than it is a tribute to the fact that the road namers happened to be on "F" when they got to that block.
Regardless of how it got named though, my husband always likes to call it "Freedom Avenue" at every opportunity (as in me: "What route should we take to get there?" him: "Let's take Freedom Avenue, hahahahaha!!!").
As silly as his little game may seem, it turns out that he's not the only one who thought of it. One time when we were in Minnesota visiting family, we stopped by France 44 Wines & Spirits to chat with the proprietor (a friend who went to school with my brother). Even though his store specializes in fine French wines, the name is just a coincidence -- it's called "France 44" because it's on the corner of France Avenue and 44th Street.
Nonetheless, our friend told us that during the height of the "freedom fries" days, a local reporter stopped by his shop to ask if he was planning to change the name! (Must have been a slow news day or something...) The shopkeep replied: "The store is named after the road. If they change the name of the road, I'll change the name of the store."
But sadly the name of the road was never changed. Except in our hearts, where it will always be "Freedom Avenue".