Disco fries are quintessential queer food
Back in June enjoy your food celebrated Pride by declaring that “Food is queer”. In a series of profiles, interviews and recipes, the magazine spotlighted LGBTQ restaurateurs, food activists and dishes created by and for queer people.
The series reminded me of a question I’ve asked myself before: is there a queer kitchen? LGBTQ people are everywhere, of course, in all cultures, so it’s not like there’s one ethnic or regional style of cooking that can be described as queer.
When I think of LGBTQ cuisine, two conflicting types of food tend to come to mind: the kind of incredibly lean, zero-carb dishes, usually grilled poultry and brightly colored steamed vegetables, which I tend to see gym-obsessed guys post on Instagram. ; and the decadent, kitsch “elevated” — read: bourgiified — comfort food served in gay-centric Manhattan restaurants in the early 2000s. Chicken and Waffles at Elmo; Fried Oreos in the cafeteria; cheeseburger spring rolls at VYNL; truffle macaroni and cheese all over. Obviously, this is all informed by my New York-centric perspective, and this type of food is perhaps best described as homosexual kitchen. (I’m also probably dating myself here!)
I mean, I guess you might wonder what it’s all about gay trauma it pushes us to either exercise strict control over our bodies via strictly fat-free and carbohydrate-free diets, or to seek solace in rich comfort foods, but that’s a question for another time.
I agree with enjoy your food this food is strange. All foods. Any food prepared by LGBTQ people will be imbued with our experience, our values, our sensibilities, our tastes. So it may not be particularly helpful to try to identify or codify LGBTQ cuisine per se. But for me at least, there is one dish that is unmistakably queer: disco fries. I mean, disco is right there in the name!
Disco fries have their origins in Quebec poutine, which consists of fries and cheese curds topped with gravy. When the dish made its way to the United States, the curd was replaced with mozzarella, and it became a staple of late-night dinners, especially among those who enjoyed them after a night of dancing.
That’s what makes me feel disco fries are emblematic of LGBTQ culture – our love of dancing, of gay clubs, which for so long were some of the only spaces where we could be ourselves, among our own , where we to experience being in the majority. Whether you’re eating disco fries at 4 a.m. after dancing the night away or making them yourself at home, you’re eating something that speaks to the LGBTQ experience.
The disco fries I dream of deviate significantly from the standard configuration. I first encountered them at Chelsea’s Diner 24 shortly after moving to New York in 2005. Their recipe was crispy fries draped in what I think was a thyme and truffle oil brie sauce. served in a large white bowl. Sadly, Diner 24 closed in the mid-2000s, and I’ve been trying to recreate their magic ever since.
I can’t say I’ve settled on what you would call a recipe yet. What I usually do is just Google “brie sauce” and choose a recipe that doesn’t seem too demanding, something that can serve as a model for the flavor I remember. I just add a little white truffle oil and dried thyme – fresh if I have any in the kitchen – to whatever I’ve managed to whip up before drizzling some fries. It’s a lot of trial and error—alchemy, as they say. The thing is, I’m looking for that memory of something, the taste of a good night out on the town with queer friends, dancing and flirting and not wanting to let the party end. A dream of nocturnal conversations and laughter over something delicious.
Now, if you fancy making your own fries, I recommend one of two methods from Nigella Lawson, queen of kitschy cooking. One, from his 2012 book Nigelissime involves slicing the potatoes and frying them in initially cold oil. It sounds wild, but it works and involves less splattering than plunging them into a tub of bubbling fat. The other dates from 2018 At my table and requires a spiralizer to create thin, delicate fries. There may be better or easier methods, but I work from the cookbooks on my shelf. (Plus, there’s a sizable part of me that hopes that if I keep mentioning Nigella in my food posts, maybe she’ll notice me and we’ll become best friends! *sweating emoji*)
Most often, though, I’m more than happy to use cryosleep-revived frozen fries in the oven a little longer than stated on the package to get a little extra crispiness out of them. Literally, my cooking game is shameless.