The French have nothing to do with French fries nor do Indians with Indian Ink, and if we are being frank about it, no chicken is related to the chicken pox. Let me approach this another way. How do you like your French fries? Straight cut? Crinkle cut? Well, a restaurant in Maine, US, famous for its crinkle-cut fries, discovered how crucial this question is, right up there with what is the meaning of life and where did the bank robbers hide the money. When they switched to straight, there were protests, and the owners were threatened with bodily harm.
The American entrepreneur and writer Robert Kiyosaki once said that French fries kill more people than guns and sharks, but this may not have been what he meant. French fries figured in the Iraq War too.
Upset by France’s lack of support for the US decision to go to war, a Congressman decided that French fries would now be called ‘freedom fries’. In three years, the Congressman’s term came to an end and so did the new name for an old favourite. There was no attempt at renaming French leave, or in cricket, the French cut or indeed the Freedom kiss. Frenchmen, one imagines, grow old prematurely worrying about where else their names might be erased from. Just as those who live in China worry Chinese whispers might be renamed Freedom whispers if they don’t co-operate with one scatterbrained idea or another. Only the Irish celebrate regardless, confident that no one will change the name of the potato whatever they do.
Hence the generic, neutral, apolitical term potato chips, used in other parts of the world. You really have to have a chip or two on your shoulder to attempt to change that name.
But I digress. Let’s get back to our friends in Maine. They have two choices – either serve both crinkle cut and straight, or go into the real estate business starting with the sale of their restaurant. It is a mistake to believe that a favourite restaurant or bookstore belongs only to those who own it. Everyone who comes in for a cup of coffee or a book is part-owner too.
People have their favourites. A popular restaurant in India once had to apologise to its customers for finally cleaning the place up and getting rid of the muck. Ambience is important, and you cannot get rid of cobwebs without the permission of either the spiders or those who come to stare at them. The customer, needless to say, is always right.
Barbers could have the same problem too.
Crinkle cut, or straight, they would ask, if only they knew of the Maine restaurant’s problem.