M.I.A. and Lynn Hirschberg: You're Both Wrong About Truffle-Flavored French Fries

With all this talk of truffle-flavored french fries and M.I.A.--who was recently caught by New York Times Magazine writer Lynn Hirschberg in the supposedly self-incriminating act of actually eating one (not the first time!)--we realized we had no idea what a truffle-flavored French fry actually is. So we asked Voice food critic Robert Sietsema to enlighten us.

This is what a real truffle looks like. It's certain no real truffles where harmed in the making of Hirschberg's article
This is what a real truffle looks like. It's certain no real truffles where harmed in the making of Hirschberg's article

I don't have much opinion about the brouhaha between NY Times writer Lynn Hirschberg and rapper/songstress M.I.A. caused by a story in the Sunday mag. I do know that the Hirschberg piece is long and monotonous, and so riddled with gratuitous name-dropping that one would need a lungful of meth to plow through the whole thing in one sitting.

I did get to the part about M.I.A. eating truffle-flavored fries and drinking champagne at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel: "'I kind of want to be an outsider,' she said, eating a truffle-flavored french fry." Hirschberg is supposedly telling us that M.I.A. is effete and out of touch with common humanity in her fry-topping tastes, not the "outsider" she pretends to be.

Here is my take on the subject: No one who has the slightest amount of taste would ever eat anything called a truffle-flavored french fry. They're uniformly awful. Truffle-flavored fries are nearly always made with truffle oil, which is a synthetic compound, a chemical, not a natural substance. But most of the public who worship truffle oil believe there to be some natural truffle component, perhaps achieved by soaking actual truffles in olive oil. Nope.

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Newsflash: People who love truffles insist on eating actual truffles. Rich people can have as many actual truffles as they want. You can tell you're eating actual truffles when you can see the black specs or black chunks, depending on your income level. (Aside to M.I.A.: You can afford real truffles now, girl, you're a big star!)

And BTW, no one in their right mind would waste actual truffles by putting them on greasy fries. Eggs or plain pasta with butter make the best backdrop.

So M.I.A. was showing her lack of culinary sophistication by eating anything called truffle-flavored fries (and, later, by refusing a photographer's offer of wonderful Sri Lankan rice pudding!), and Hirschberg her own lack of culinary sophistication by thinking that truffle-flavored fries were effete. This is the kind of misunderstanding that always occurs when two non-foodies get together for an interview.


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