We didn’t order these fries (see why?)

A reminder: I work at a Christian camp. We do not serve alcohol, allow it on campus or even cook with it (sorry, chicken marsala lovers).

So imagine my surprise when I looked at the box of french fries delivered this week by one of our purveyors and found beer among the ingredients.

Brew City fries. “Made with real beer in the batter,” says the company’s website.

Oh, goody. Just what a bunch of junior high kids need.

Putting aside for a moment the question why french fries need beer at all, how on earth did these make it to us?

The answer is simple. But the underlying problem is complicated, and probably uncorrectable.

It’s a simple matter of a substitution. The fries we ordered — seasoned Redstone Canyon Ranch shoestring ones — apparently went out of stock between the time I placed the order and the time it got to the warehouse. The automatic substitution, according to the invoice, is the boozy ones.

But if my order was in the hand of a person and not a system, I wonder if we could have fared better.

Our sales rep is a nice guy. He’s been to the camp several times and knows what we stand for. His drivers are all professional — probably the best of all the purveyors we use. But in-between is a faceless system of computers, forklifts and overworked warehouse employees. For me to expect somebody in the process to say, “hey, wait, can we send beer fries to a place with Bible in the name?” would be unreasonable.

That’s just the nature of the big foodservice business.

There was no harm done in this case. I don’t have a personal objection to alcohol as a minor ingredient in a dish that will be sufficiently cooked (though you may, and I respect that), so I’m not personally offended. But this incident is just another indication that a lot of the food-purveying process is out of the kitchen’s hands, and it’s another reason those of us who feed guests — young and old — have to be diligent about watching what comes in the door.

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