You Should Know About Fry Sauce

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This piece, by Jessica Murri was a submission in KCRW’ s Independent Producer Project‘s 24-hour radio race. 

Living in Idaho, people know one thing about my state: potatoes. But there’s something else you should know. Idaho has a saucy secret. One that most of the nation has never tasted. And one that most Idahoans consider potato perfect.

“It was rich, creamy, tasty, a great compliment for fries,”said Peter Kurst, remembering the first time he tried it.

It’s simply called fry sauce It’s two-parts mayonnaise, one-part ketchup. But it’s so much more.

“I have a very special relationship with fry sauce. I won’t eat fries without fry sauce,”said Tiffany Quilici, who’s lived in Idaho almost her whole life. “Fries are nothing but a vehicle for fry sauce.”

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In Idaho, fry sauce is as common as ketchup at most every drive-in and diner. But beyond our border? Not so much.

“Fry sauce does not exist in the south, by the way. They have no idea what it is,”said some dude outside of one of Boise’s breweries. For Kurst, he had never tried fry sauce until he moved here. And for Quilici, that means she’s staying put.

“If it’s true that they don’t have fry sauce in other places, then I can never leave Idaho,”she said.

So here’s your history lesson on this curious condiment. It was invented by the fast-food chain Arctic Circle in neighboring Utah in 1948. Idahoans wholeheartedly adopted it as their own, and can’t imagine life without it.

“You don’t have fries without fry sauce, that’s the way it is,”said Kris Gibson, an employee of Giant Produce, Inc.

And you don’t have fries without potatoes.

That’s where Gibson’s company comes in. It’s 45 miles outside of Boise in Parma, Idaho—population 2,020.  Giant Produce, Inc. is the second building on the left, a packing warehouse where spuds are trucked, washed, sorted and bagged for chain grocery stores and restaurants nationwide.

“5.6 million pounds will be ran through this facility in approximately a month’s time,”Gibson said. “And we’re small potatoes. I mean, in the world of potatoes, we’re very small.

Throughout our tour, she asks me three more times—people really don’t know about fry sauce?

“Me and my fry sauce. I love it,”she said.

Now, to the mecca of fry sauce: the Boise Fry Company—it’s a restaurant where you order fries first, and your burger on the side.

Self-proclaimed “Cap’n”Jordan Krema, who’s been at the fry company for three years, sticks to the basics.

“I’m kind of a purist with fry sauce,”Krema said. “If you guys really want to know, I can tell you the secret to any fry sauce. It’s just love. It’s that simple.”

Just how much do Idahoans love their fry sauce? He says his store goes through five gallons of fry sauce a week.

And for some, fry sauce isn’t just for fries.

“There’s people will put it on their salads, there’s people that will dip their apples in it. Use it as chip dip,”Krema said.

“Fry sauce is good for anything. Burritos,”Gibson added.

“Burgers, hot dogs, nachos,”Kurst said. “Pizza, potentially, but only for your crust.”

So if you ever get to Idaho, open your minds, and open your mouths.