The French Fry Challenge

Beware! Traveling veterinarians are everywhere!

Along with the vast hordes of people who undergo summer migration in odd patterns they refer to as “vacations,” we made our way across the North Pole to Europe, specifically France.

You may (or may not) recall that we had entertained an exchange student from that country earlier this year and that she had left us with the declaration (politely) that no where on Earth could the fabulous French Fry be found as it existed in her country, specifically the north of France.

The gauntlet had been thrown. Valiantly I threw all my free air miles into the purchase of plane tickets and we set off on our summer adventure. Our first venture with the French pommes frites (french fry) was …. drum roll, please : at an airport McDonald’s. Oooh la la!

Oddly enough, they tasted like a McDonald’s french fry here. Except they were accompanied by a lime green packet of “pommes-frites-sauce” which was a mysterious white color inside and tasted a bit like sweetened mayonnaise (if you’ve ever had sweetened mayonnaise?).

We passed. It must be an acquired taste, and in all fairness, we had to ask for ketchup everywhere we went, but they did have it.

I suspect when the shoe is on the other foot and the French are visiting us, we may not be so accommodating. We sampled the frites in Paris and across the south of France, then headed north to Lille, almost on the border with Belgium.

Here we met up with our exchange student, whose family welcomed us into their home. We sampled “les frites” in restaurants and roadside stands across Northern France and into Belgium. We ate them with dishes whose names we couldn’t pronounce and sometimes ingredients we couldn’t guess at.

We ate them wrapped in newspaper cones, served in clever tiny wire baskets and scattered across plates. Without exception they were served fresh from the fryer, hot enough to burn the skin off your fingers and tongue, and were indeed crispy/crunchy on the outside and soft and melting on the inside (or was that my tongue giving way?).

With a deep bow of respect, may I say that round one went to northern France in the “Pommes Frites Contestation.”

Wish this could become an annual event! We made the acquaintance of their cat, Plume, and several other pets along the way. We very much enjoyed our trip to another country and found ourselves, delightedly, also happy to come home.

There was much fun with “bonjour” and the French kiss, kiss greeting upon our return and then I got down to work. What a joy! I truly love my work and the people with whom I work.

In my absence, at the Applegate Zoo, our new Black-tailed Mule deer, Lily, had birthed twin fawns! Lily came to our Zoo only weeks before giving birth. She had been taken in by Fish and Game staff after reports of a deer coming up to people in traffic and trying to climb into their cars or mooch something to eat.

Obviously she had been hand-raised (surreptitiously, not legally) then released. Too imprinted on humans to live safely in the wild, Lily found a home here with us, where Donna, the head Zookeeper, watched over her vigilantly and assisted in the twins’ safe delivery on June 15.

Mule deer have a gestation period of about 200 days (compared with a human pregnancy of 280 days). Anxious that the mother and babies bond, Donna kept everyone away initially – not to worry, the little ones are as wild as the proverbial March hares! Right now they have their spots and are slightly smaller than the rooster they share a pen with. Both little does, the fawns will be able to stay with their mother at the Zoo.

Please come visit our City of Merced Applegate Zoo to welcome these newcomers and celebrate summer! A lively Special Celebration is offered this Sunday, July 22 from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Applegate Zoo. Meet the twins! A bounce house, water games, snow cones, popcorn and more will be offered.

Kids : Wear your swimsuits, shoes and shorts required! The zoo address is 1045 West 25th St. in Merced. Free parking.

Christine McFadden, DVM

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