A couple weekends ago Mark and I drove down to southern New Hampshire to attend a beer and chili festival with a group of friends. The beer and chili festival was exactly what the name implies: a festival in which you get to walk around trying many different beers and many different versions of chili. The chili was all you could eat, in fact, and was included in the price of admission. Chili = zero dollars in this scenario.
Remember that. It’s going to be relevant later.
When you first go into the festival they give you a sample glass and ten drink tickets, the idea being that each time you go to an exhibitor’s booth and get a sample of their beer, you give them one of your tickets. When you’re out of tickets, you’re ostensibly out of beer. Except…none of the exhibitors were actually taking tickets. Some of them had containers out to collect tickets, but not a single one of them were creating any kind of “you can’t have this beer until you give me a ticket” enforcement situations. So in essence, it was a no-holds-barred, beer-sampling free-for-all. With chili. FREE chili.
We entered the festival and proceeded to work our way around the small tents, sampling chili and beer. We got almost to the end of the lawn area where we had entered and I asked if it was time to perhaps circle back around to hit the tents we hadn’t visited in our first round. Our friends, who had been to this festival before, laughed and pointed down along a paved walkway at the end of the lawn which led to another, larger lawn with several GIANT tents set up on it. Turned out there were a lot more breweries exhibiting at the festival than we had realized there’d be. Three giant tents worth, in fact! Excited at the prospect of sampling many more beers, we made our way toward the giant tents.
It’s worth pointing out here that New Englanders are known as a thrifty lot. My people aren’t big into wasting things, especially food and drink. Thus, the concept of getting oh, say, a sample of beer, and only drinking a few sips before dumping the rest out is kind of foreign to me. Also, how would YOU feel if you were a brewer giving out samples of your wares only to watch people take just a few sips and then dump them out? You’d be offended, right? You might begin to question your chosen profession, even. You’d surely be hurt. I try to do my best not to hurt people if I can help it, so I was doing my level best to finish off each beer sample entirely before I’d go for the next one. Even if I didn’t particularly like the beer. Unsurprisingly, this resulted in me drinking a fair amount of beer on a stomach that only had a few sample-sized portions of chili in it.
So, we were there by the giant beer tents and my husband started talking about wanting more food. Beginning to feel the effects of all the beer samples I had been diligently finishing off for the last hour or so (mustn’t waste, after all), I agreed that food would be a smart move. We assessed our options. The chili tents were waaaaay off on the other end of the park where we first came in, but there were a couple of food trucks vending quite close to the end where we were.
“But the chili is FREE”, I said.
“But the guy selling sausages is CLOSE. Plus: we got cash on the way here for just such a situation. Plus: sausage,” Mark replied.
“Damn you and your flawless logic”, I grumbled, and off we went to the sausage truck (which is an inherently funny phrase, but don’t derail me).
There were a few people in line ahead of us so we got a good look at the wares as others got their orders. The choices were a disturbingly long grilled hotdog, a pretty normal-looking grilled sausage with or without grilled onions and peppers, and french fries. The purveyors didn’t have any signage displaying pricing, but it was kind of too late at that point because it was our turn at the counter.
Me: “Hi, how much are your hotdogs?”
Sausage Man: “Sausages and hotdogs are $8”
Me: “$8…does that include fries?”
Me: “Oh. How much are the fries?”
Me, trying not to snort at that absurdity: “Ok, we’ll take just a sausage please”.
We stepped back from the counter while the guy made the sausage and I turned to Mark with wide eyes.
“Six bucks for FRIES?!” I hissed. He made some malarky argument about captive audiences and hand-cut fries but I stopped hearing the words coming out of his mouth because, six bucks. For fries. When there were seventeen (at least!) types of chili like 500 feet away. FREE CHILI. ZERO. DOLLAR. CHILI.
The guy gave us the sausage (hurrr), we ate it, I went back and told others of the outrageous pricing, then we all drank more beer and talked about more amusing subjects. A good time was had by all. (That whole story was really just background, so I don’t feel bad ending it abruptly.)
Anyway. Fast-forward to last night.
(I wanted to put a gif here of the thing they do on Wayne’s World when they change scenes, but you think I could find that thing anywhere? NO. Fucking Internet. Why do I even bother?)
Wait, what? Oh yes. Last night.
So last night Mark and I were running some errands and I was ranting about…I don’t even know, something…and at the end of the rant Mark pointed out that I was nearly as offended by that thing as I had been by the price of fries at the beer festival. Since the rant pump was already well-primed, that was all the nudge I needed to go off about those stupid fries.
“Six bucks for fries. THAT WAS INSANE. Do you know how much a 50 pound bag of potatoes costs? Like $10. MAYBE. And that’s RETAIL. If they were buying them through a wholesaler they were like half that. And it’s not even like there’s LABOR involved with making fries. With the sausages, I can kind of see the justification – you have to grill them, you have to slice and grill the onions and peppers, you have to put the sausage in the bun…there’s semi-skilled labor involved in that. But french fries? You dump potatoes into hot oil and you WALK AWAY for several minutes. You maybe go back and shake the basket halfway through cooking, but that’s it. There’s no labor. Nothing.”
Mark tried reason on me: “Well, someone’s gotta cut the potatoes, at least.”
“NO THEY FUCKING DON’T. They put them through a fry cutter! You set the potato on it, push the lever down, it forces the potato through a cutting grid, and VOILA, french fries. You don’t even have to PEEL the potatoes. The most you could argue is that they have to WASH the potatoes, but big fucking deal, how long does that take? Not $8 worth of time, that’s for damn sure.”
“You said $8, but the fries were $6.”
I side-eyed him as best I could while also keeping the car on the road, because I was driving through this entire thing, it’s worth noting.
“Six dollars, eight dollars…I don’t fucking care. They were too damned expensive and I am deeply annoyed by it. So…so shove THAT in your $8 POTATO HOLE,” I spluttered.
Needless to say, the $8 potato hole was still being brought up this morning. I don’t even want to think about how long it’s gonna to take me to live that one down.
It’ll be longer than it takes to make a batch of french fries, though. I can guarantee you THAT much.