Street Snack: patats

Okay, let's get this straight: French fries are not French — any more than English muffins are English or a toasted Danish comes from ... well, you get the idea.

French fries are Belgian, but I like the way they do them in Holland even better. They're called either patats ("potatoes") or frites ("fries"), served in a paper cone, and you eat them with a teensy little brightly colored plastic fork. You can get them with ketchup, if you insist, but the classic topping is mayonnaise, which looks like mayonaise but isn't. I prefer pindasaus or satésaus, which are pretty much the same thing: a thick Indonesian peanut sauce that also goes great on bami. There are other sauces available, and various combinations of sauces, but don't get carried away. Patats met pindasaus, that's the ticket. Or, if you want them classic style, just order "een patat met," which means "an order of French fries with" — and the "with" that they'll come with will be mayonnaise. (Not mayonaise.)

Oh, I almost forgot: that's Albert Boonstra in the picture, which was taken during the summer of 2000, while Becca was at her pre-Choate summer orientation and I visited Europe for the first time since moving back to the US in 1991. "Manneke Pis" is a Belgian-style frites stand on Amsterdam's main shopping street, the Damrak. And, yes, the name means "the Pissing Little Guy." There's a big statue of the Manneke Pis in the heart of downtown Brussells — which goes a long way towards explaining why the Dutch equivalent of the Polish joke is the Belgian joke. (Did you hear about the Belgian terrorist who tried to blow up a bus? He burned his lips on the exhaust pipe. Or here's an appropriate one we don't have in the US: What does a Belgian call his parents? PAtats and MAyonnaise. Get it?)

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