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The Case for Hash Browns
I’m always fascinated by regional specificities when it comes to dining and drinking. In some cases these come as a surprise. In Osaka and the Kansai region of Japan, for instance, you are more likely to get your noodles in a lighter, milder broth than you’re going to enjoy in Tokyo, or Kanto, where it’s darker and richer. What is bland to the Tokyo-denizen is nuanced to the Kyoto resident. You quickly realize you’re in the middle of an ongoing culinary dispute and you’ll have to order another round in the interest of science.
Sometimes these surprises are nice—in Minnesota (and other parts of the Midwest) your Bloody Mary arrives with a small glass of beer, which, in the right moment is the most perfect thing you didn’t realize you need. It’s natural to wonder how you lived without this perfect marriage.
Then there is the regional situation containing no ambiguity at all: The utter foolishness of home fries. These have been a blight on diner life in the Northeast for generations. Now diners are having a tough time. Fewer and fewer people eat that way. A modern TV show would never be set in a diner, the way Seinfeld was thirty years ago.
Here in Montana (after some time in Idaho) I’ve been enjoying hash browns for breakfast before fishing, the way God intended. They arrive crispy and hot, a great supporting actor that plays well with others. Home fries, on the other hand, are lumpen, soggy and completely unloved, by short-order cook and diner alike.
Regional disputes are complicated by history—if you’re used to something a certain way you generally don’t want to change (like North Carolinians and their vinegar-based barbecue). But does anybody like home fries? They’re like weather in England, locals enduring the less than ideal situation with a stiff upper lip. Here’s for a hash brown renaissance in the greater Northeast. The people want it—it might break them out of their intermittent fasting. In the process, they just might save the diner.