Asparagus fries at the Sugarloaf Frostie

  • Asparagus fries are a simple pleasure, writes Hazlip. Underneath that dark brown batter, there lurks a recognizably bright, neon green, I-know-it’s-local-I-don’t-even-have-to-ask spear. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Asparagus fries are a simple pleasure at the Sugarloaf Frostie, writes Hazlip. Underneath that dark brown batter, there lurks a recognizably bright, neon green, I-know-it’s-local-I-don’t-even-have-to-ask spear. Dipping sauce, such as ranch and honey mustard, are available. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Asparagus fries are a simple pleasure at the Sugarloaf Frostie, writes Hazlip. Underneath that dark brown batter, there lurks a recognizably bright, neon green, I-know-it’s-local-I-don’t-even-have-to-ask spear. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Don’t overthink it: On the next gorgeous day, go find yourself a picnic table under the umbrellas at the Sugarloaf Frostie in Sunderland, just out of the shadow of Mt. Sugarloaf itself. While you’re there, try the asparagus fries. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

For the Recorder
Published: 6/5/2019 8:28:44 AM

If you were running the fryolator at some roadside joint, at some point you’d probably want to break the monotony of the vicious french fry/chicken nugget/corn dog cycle with something new. I mean, the combination of boredom and human creativity practically demands it. Which is surely why we live in the era of deep-fried butter-on-a-stick (look it up) and the fried Snickers bar.

It was all bound to happen eventually, probably to our detriment as a species.

But what if that fryolator were stationed somewhere here in the Pioneer Valley, and your boredom took hold in spring, just as the asparagus started reaching for the sun?

Maybe you’d be moved to go snap off a few spears on your break, and in between dunkings of frozen, pre-cut crinkle fries, while nobody was looking, maybe you’d toss them into the churning oil. Just to see, you know. Then, after hoisting your catch in the fry basket, you shared your little experiment with friends behind the counter.

And you saw that it was good.

And on the next day, you put it on the menu board.

Now, I don’t know the origin story of the fried asparagus spear. I only know that a few years ago, when my partner suggested that we add the “asparagus fries” to our order of hot dogs, a clam roll, and French fries at the Sugarloaf Frostie on Route 116 in Sunderland, I gave her a look just like that time she suggested I try the asparagus ice cream.

I love asparagus, and I’m cool with new food experiments, but I believe just because you can fry it, that doesn’t mean you should fry it. I like my fries to appear in the familiar potato form. And honestly, I don’t think she tried the asparagus ice cream either.

She ordered the asparagus fries anyway, of course. And when I had worked my way through all the regular, crispy, potato fries, leaving my young children to argue over the few sad little limp ones that remained, I turned my rapacious attention to the asparagus version. I never looked back.

Why isn’t the Pioneer Valley known as the Home of Asparagus Fries? Why aren’t they a seasonal staple of menus elsewhere, from Florence to Belchertown, and, of course, Hadley? Maybe it’s because we’re blind to the charms and possibilities of something so bountifully ubiquitous. Or maybe it’s because they’re not that healthy compared to other foods. But look, asparagus fries aren’t even available for Sugarloaf supersizing. They just come in a little paper basket, always leaving you wanting more.

And you will want more.

No flowery descriptors are required here: This is strictly a case of a tasty, fresh, local vegetable meeting batter and hot oil. Asparagus fries are a simple pleasure at the Sugarloaf Frostie. They know how hard to fry them — not into oblivion, but enough to stave off sogginess. Take a bite and you’ll find that just underneath that dark brown batter, there lurks a recognizably bright, neon green, I-know-it’s-local-I-don’t-even-have-to-ask asparagus spear. If I ever convince my kids to enjoy asparagus, Sugarloaf Frostie, I’m thanking you first.

So on the next gorgeous day, when you’re wracking your brain, or Yelp, for an exotic new lunch option, don’t overthink things. Go find yourself a picnic table under the umbrellas at the Sugarloaf Frostie in Sunderland, just out of the shadow of Mt. Sugarloaf itself. Make sure you bring cash, at least enough to cover the $7.95 price of the asparagus fries — not quite a local bargain, but still totally worth it. And when your patient reverie is broken by the sound of your order number being barked out of the window, announcing that your order of asparagus fries is ready, you will know that summer in the valley is nigh.

Bennett Hazlip is a business writer and 10-year resident of Amherst who has only scratched the surface of the small, hidden surprises lurking on local menus.


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