It’s almost like “crack” has become a euphemism for something that’s highly addictive. And that’s completely messed up.
In addition to being a writer and a recovery advocate, I love food. I love to cook it and I love to eat it. So I’m frequently perusing the Internet for recipes, local restaurant reviews, and those ever-present lists that rank the best examples of certain categories of foods.
A couple of weeks ago, I was directed to such a list by an email I received from the Food Network. “America’s 10 Best French Fries,” the subject line teased. As someone who’s been known to enjoy a good french fry from time to time, I clicked through to see just which fries the Food Network thought stood above and beyond the rest.
When the page loaded, a photo of the first of the 10 best fries was staring me in the face, and they looked delicious. So I scrolled down a bit to see which establishment these mouthwatering fries belonged to. What I saw was a bit of a shock to me.
The fact that these fries were from HopCat, a small chain of beer bars that started in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in 2008, wasn’t a big deal to me. But what HopCat calls their fries made me a little sick to my stomach.
As the Food Network piece parenthetically pointed out, the fries are “named for how addictive they are.” I figured that was the reason as soon as I saw the name, but it didn’t lessen the impact on me at all.
With addiction being such a huge health crisis in the United States, it boggled my mind how any responsible restaurant could even think of naming an item on their menu after a drug that has ravaged so many people and ripped apart so many families.
So I took to Twitter to ask the question:
Does anyone else find the name of these fries offensive? Or is it just me? @HopCat#AddictionIsntFunny #ImSensitive
I received a few responses from some of my followers in the addiction/recovery community, and they were equally offended. A little while later, I got a reply from HopCat:
When we started we honestly didn’t think about offending. We just thought it was a good name…
Hm. So at least they admitted that they weren’t thinking. My next tweet to HopCat:
This might be a dumb question, but how ’bout just changing the name? There’s NOTHING funny about crack or #addiction.
And their reply?
Not a dumb question, but we have no plans to change the name. We hope we can do some good by helping those in need
That part about helping those in need refers to the fact that HopCat told me on Twitter that—since March of this year—their Detroit location “has donated $1K from sales of Crack Fries to help treat drug addiction.” According to the person behind HopCat’s Twitter feed, that money goes to Mariners Inn, a Detroit shelter and treatment center for the homeless.
While I applaud HopCat’s donations to help people suffering from addiction, I find the whole situation to be kind of hypocritical. The restaurant is basically exploiting addiction by naming their popular french fries after a highly addictive drug. Then they’re taking a portion of their profits and donating it to an addiction treatment center. It’s almost like HopCat is saying, “We screwed up. We’d better fix this.”
HopCat’s “Crack Fries” got me thinking about crack in general, and how it’s become a joking matter in our society. If something tastes really good, we say it’s “like crack.” If someone does something stupid or desperate, we call the person a “crackhead.”
Hell, President Obama even made a crack-related joke last year. While talking about how much he’d miss the tasty pies created by his retiring White House pastry chef, the president said, “I don’t know what he does—whether he puts crack in them, or…”
So why is crack funny?
The simple answer is that it’s not. There’s nothing funny about addiction, or any drugs that cause people pain and suffering while destroying their lives and the lives of those around them. Why crack has been singled out as the go-to drug when trying to be witty is completely lost on me.
It’s almost like “crack,” which used to be a word with an extremely negative and unpleasant connotation, has become a euphemism for something that’s highly addictive. And that’s completely messed up.
As I told the HopCat folks on Twitter, “Why didn’t you just call them ‘Heroin Fries’? Or ‘Cocaine Fries’? Or ‘Meth Fries’? Those names are no different.” Ah, but apparently those names were different. Why? Because people wouldn’t think those names were funny.
Note: In the interest of full disclosure, I should point out that HopCat’s menu describes their fries as “Beer battered fries with a special cracked black pepper house seasoning.” So maybe the “Crack” in “Crack Fries” has something to do with cracked black pepper, too. But I think we all know what they’re really trying to do with that name. Read more “the fix”…