TBT: Hot Fries

The sought-after packaged lunchtime snack gets a homemade, mature makeover

Homemade Hot Fries
Hot FriesMatt Taylor-Gross

When I was in elementary school, Hot Fries were a pretty big deal. Decades later, I can still remember the back of my throat burning after a handful of these oven-baked snacks, which resemble french fries but are made with corn and a snack-appropriate list of artificial ingredients and preservatives.They represented successful lunchtime snack trades and continued progress in climbing the social ladder. But pain is temporary, popularity is forever (or at least for that day at lunch).

I did not have a tolerance for spicy foods as a kid, so I didn’t particularly love their blazing heat (although the cheesy taste and crunchy texture were fine by me). What I remember more clearly is the social hype surrounding them. If your hands found their way into a bag of Hot Fries, you were the ruler of the lunch table that day.

Eating Hot Fries meant you were brave. The fries stung your taste buds, but you didn’t care; in fact, you liked the powerful spice so much that you licked your neon orange fingers at the end of the bag. You could have opted for the sister flavor, Cheddar Fries, but eating those was sign of weakness.

Eating Hot Fries at lunch meant you were rebellious. You found your way to your mom’s change purse, grabbed 50 cents, and whether or not she liked it, tossed away the apple she packed you and indulged in something way more awesome.

Eating Hot Fries meant you were wanted. All of your classmates were vying to make a snack trade with you. Four Gushers? Five inches of a Fruit Roll-Up? Half a Pop-Tart? All good offers, but yeah right—you’d never barter your Fries.

This homemade spin on a classic packaged treat takes me right back to the cafeteria in elementary school. Now, my palate is nice and mature and primed for a little kick. These might even be a better version of the original. The best part? I can enjoy them without any lunchroom politics at all.