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Cheetah Masai Mara '06

It’s been said that the real meaning behind photography is that it creates a “transfer of energy” across time and space. It is a way of capturing a bit of the dynamic content of the cosmos in a portable form. As in this photo of a cheetah that had spontaneously joined us on the hood of our Land Cruiser on the plains of the Massai Mara in Kenya several years ago.

And speaking of New Year’s resolutions, I’m reminded of the voyage mankind is taking, in this excerpt from the conclusion, of all things, of an essay I did called “French Fried, From Monticello to the Moon,” for the Chicago Literary Club.

“I’d like to take that long ladder of moon-bound French fries just one last step further into the future, as I wrap up this voyage through history. Albert Einstein thought that perhaps the greatest challenge facing mankind is to “widen our circle of compassion” across both time and space. Our ethnic and geopolitical squabbling might pale into insignificance if our compassionate circles were wide enough, he reasoned.

So let’s not longer worry whether the little fry is French, Belgium, American or Russian, but take it with us into the future, even into space, as a tasty treat for our frail band of wandering humanity, and continue to enjoy the good little things in life.

John Calvi, in a 1982 poem called “French Fries,” perhaps said it best, in his final stanza, when he wrote:
“Some think the army, the bombs and the guns
Will one day save all of our lives,
I don’t believe it — heat up your pans
Make peace, and lots of French fries.”

Happy New Year 2014!

My essay on fries can be found at http://www.chilit.org and then under, Roll of Members.

Albert Einstein’s transcendent admonition to mankind to “widen our circle of compassion” across both time and space, was central to the context of my history of the global socializing role of the French fry, when I addressed the tuber topic before The Chicago Literary Club. Here’s an excerpt from my essay:

“By now, you’re probably about done in, as well. So, I’ll bring this “appreciation of the french fry” to a close. But, I realize I’ve left out, until now, one final dimension from the title of this essay, which again is — French Fried: From Monticello to the Moon. What’s this about french fries and outer space, you ask? Well, in 1995, NASA and the University of Wisconsin at Madison, created a new technology with the goal of feeding astronauts on long space voyages, with a view to eventually feeding future space colonies. In October of that year, the potato became the first vegetable to be grown in outer space.

“It’s a funny thing, because one of my first assignments shortly after becoming a McDonald’s consultant, some 30 years ago, was to help associate McDonald’s image, as it approached its 30th anniversary, with the space age.

“One of the fun facts we worked up in support of the premise that McDonald’s menu might literally reach space one day, was to compute the number of McDonald’s french fries, strung end to end that it would take to reach the moon. To figure it out we sent for a box of fries and measured each one, then divided and determined the average length, and multiplied by the average mileage to the moon – a quarter million miles. If you’re curious, pick up a box of fries at McDonald’s, do the math, and see how close you get to 4.5 billion fries to the moon.

“I’d like to take that long ladder of moon-bound french fries just one last step farther into the future, as I wrap up this voyage through history. Albert Einstein thought that perhaps the greatest challenge facing mankind is to “widen our circle of compassion” across both time and space. Our ethnic and geopolitical squabbling might pale into insignificance if our compassionate circles were wide enough, he reasoned.

“So let’s no longer worry whether the little fry is French, Belgian, American or Russian, but take it with us into the future, even into space, as a tasty treat for our frail band of wandering humanity, and continue to enjoy the good little things in life.

“John Calvi, in a 1982 poem called “French Fries,” perhaps said it best, in his final stanza, when he wrote:

“Some think the army, the bombs and the guns
Will one day save all of our lives,
I don’t believe it – heat up your pans
Make peace, and lots of French fries.”

Here is a link to my complete essay: “French Fried: From Monticello to the Moon”

http://www.chilit.org/Papers%20by%20author/Ebeling%20–%20French%20Fried.htm

NBC-TV’s Today show this morning did a feature on the question of whether French Fries are really French, or from Belgium. Michelle Kosinski reported from Europe, while Willie Geist and the Today team speculated in New York.

The real answer to the question, and the fascinating history of the tantalizing tuber can be found in my 2005 essay, “French Fried: From Monticello to the Moon,” which I researched and presented to the Chicago Literary Club in 2005. Having headed corporate communications for McDonald’s for 15 years, I had a head start on the subject.

You can read the essay online by going to http://www.chilit.org and entering “French Fried” in the search box.

P.S.If you can’t wait to know, the answer is…what we call French Fries probably came from Belgium!

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