Pommes frites

May 5, 2016
 by Paul McGowan

In the early 1970s, when I lived in Germany, I was a carnivore. One of my favorite meals was wiener schnitzel, pommes frites and gemischter salade, which translates to a breaded veal cutlet, french fries and mixed salad.

Since then I haven’t eaten meat, but I still like french fries–only I can’t eat them in German pubs anymore. Why? Because they’re now inedible. Instead of what we used to get, hand cut potatoes pan fried in butter, they’ve learned from McDonalds to dump a bag of frozen crap into a deep fryer. It’s a shame, I miss the old way of cooking.

But here’s the thing. Just because German pubs no longer cook french fries the way I like them, doesn’t mean I like pan fried french fries any less. It just means I have to search for different outlets to get what I want. And the same is true for audio.

Just because the masses listen to music through earbuds, something I also do when I am running, doesn’t mean there aren’t great audio systems to be had, outlets to sell them, experts to curate them. And it certainly doesn’t portend the death of high end audio! On the contrary, the desire for better sound has never been stronger, and young people still come of age, some looking to step up to better experiences.

A certain percentage of people will always want something better than what is commonly accepted as normal. That’s why high end anything exists: restaurants, hand made ice cream, fancy cars, hand tailored clothes, hand painted art, quality food served fast.

I had promised to write about integrateds but this thought seemed important. I will tomorrow.

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34 comments on “Pommes frites”

  1. Hallo Paul,
    “On the contrary, the desire for better sound has never been stronger, and young people still come of age, some looking to step up to better experiences”
    I do not know where you get your figures.
    The one I found tell a different story.
    This is for Germany only:
    This is for world-wide sales:
    Well, of course one can say “Do not trust any statistics you did not fake yourself.”
    If one would not agree with the absolute numbers but there is a trend.
    And these were the complete figures from 2015 in Germany – maybe it is another trend in the US.

    1. Well, you’re looking at numbers for consumer electronics which is a very broad category that includes everything from television to drones. I am relaying to you not statistics but the irrefutable fact that for as long as we have been traipsing around the planet, the desire of a certain group to have something better has never diminished – changed, yes – diminished, no. And the love of music hasn’t either.

  2. Though the BHK separates undoubtedly sound great together, like many people, I cannot afford $13,500 (not including interconnects and power cords). Thus, I’m more than willing to settle for a integrated amp or, alternatively, one or two Benchmark amps that I hope will achieve synergy with my Benchmark DAC without straining my back.

    I really would appreciate receiving informed opinions regarding the relative merits of the McIntosh MA8000, Hegel H360, Marantz PM-11S3, and Parasound Halo Integrated. Thanks.

    1. I have never been a fan of Mcintosh nor Marantz when it comes to giving high end performance. Parasound does a very good job – and I’ve not heard the Hegels. Perhaps others will chime in for you.

  3. Interesting post.

    Didn’t know that you had indeed resided in Germany, but what puzzled me even more was “wie ohne Schnitzel (oder Frikadellen)” for that matter? 🙂

    I’m not saying you should start going out hunting in the mountains of Colorado and back to the beef every day, but missing out on the unique, intense FLAVOR of meat to me is like quitting PS Audio to start producing US$ 150 all-in-one aberrations.

    1. Not only do I not miss meat but it was one of the best decisions I ever made. There’s plenty of things to eat that delight the tongue but ruin the body. A constant diet of meat’s among them, but perhaps more important, the effects on the environment. I can’t support anything with such devastating effects to the environment and health.

        1. Hah! You’ll live through it. Everyone’s got to make their own lifestyle decisions and I am sure you have made one that fits what works for you. As long as you’re feeling healthy and good about your decisions and listen to what your body is telling you, then you should be fine.

          I think the biggest problem many of us have is turning a deaf ear to our body’s language. We know what’s good and bad for us, if only we’d listen.

          1. I can tell you that I decided to let go of my McIntosh DAC, and replace it with the DSJ. Burning in as we speak and let me tell you I am in awe!

            Thanks Paul and please do thank Duncan on my behalf when you see him, he’s been of great help to have it set up. Now the next step would be the transport I guess 🙂

  4. Be careful what you say Paul.
    Some might say you’re a snob, or even worse, an ignorant snob.
    But speaking of good things…
    I have a wonderful local dealer.
    Everytime I’m interested in some new gear I can take it home and have a try out.
    For at least a few weeks. Expensive or not. No problem.
    BTW : while writing this, I’m listening to my very inexpensive internet radio device.
    It’s not all about having the most expensive stuff. It’s all about the music.

    1. I am definitely a snob. I’ll own up to that in a heartbeat. I am very selective in what I listen to, eat, spend my time doing. Ignorant? Well, that’s a matter of opinion – though in the most literal sense of the word I doubt it. I find myself very well informed relative to others – maybe you meant to suggest “misinformed”? as clearly most people seem to feel both threatened and offended on the meat and food issue.

      1. I didn’t mean to ,suggest anything Paul. Just kidding.
        Like you, I am very selective in what I listen to (music as well as equipment), eat (hardly any meat, sugar, salt, saturated fat), spend my time doing.
        But that seems to make you a snob, according to some people.
        Not my words. I am only the messenger.

        1. I definitely got your joke, and I am apparently ignorant and stupid. Maybe just stupid, I think that they were mutually exclusive. No, maybe alternately…um, um… : )

      2. IMO the essential element in the term “snob” is ignorance. It’s not snobbish at all to have an informed opinion based on either facts or taste (personal perception), but it is to be ignorantly derisive of something, especially because of it’s perceived prestige. Paul, your thoughtful exploration of issues generally would rule you out, seems to me, as a snob. But I’ll keep an open mind. 🙂

  5. For me that is somewhat relative. I cannot listen to MP3 (not even 320, just can’t stand them) and so I use a hi-rez player for high quality files instead. And I simply cannot listen to music with earbuds (hate them with a passion) either, so jogging on my B&W’s, Beyerdynamics or Sennheisers can be a real ordeal but still endure it every time in order to listen “properly”.

  6. What about discussing another explanation for audiophile’s endless search for perfection: the music lover wants – as often promised by the HIFI-industry – to hear the music at home getting a similar sensation as he had during the concert he just had heard. Not being aware of the effects of poor recording techniques he tweaks his system and changes it’s components as long as the perceived sound approaches his expectations. He thus individually creates his sound – as the recording engineer (sound engineer, mastering engineer) creates his own sound.
    Maybe we should better name audiophile’s amateur sound engineers? 🙂

  7. I don’t freeze my cables, I deep fry them. I’m going to go try it on my mics….

    Actually, if I really want mics to sound the way they did “back in the day”, I need to exhale cigarette smoke on them constantly. It was that added caramel-coating of nicotine that gave vintage mics their “je ne sais quoi”.

  8. Speaking of deep fried, or cooked in butter – if you haven’t seen the “Muscle Shoals” doc, it’s really essential, even if you don’t care about Soul. It came to mind with this talk of frying stuff, as in it, Aretha marvels that this place and these players could get so “greeazy”. I have no connection to it, it’s just amazing for anyone who loves music.


  9. This also brings to mind this ongoing discussion/arguments over this apparently desperate need for music to be recorded in some imagined “perfect” way, and reproduced in some other imagined “perfect” way (which nobody has) that magically recreates the players and the room, in your room.

    Just put on Aretha, and THEN try and complain to me that it was recorded “improperly” in some stuffy box of a studio.

    “Baby baby, sweet baby, there is one thing I just got to say…”

  10. Paul, may be next time in Germany you might ask for Rösti or even better Bratkartoffeln instead of pommes frites. You will very likely get “hand cut fresh potatoes pan fried in real butter”.

  11. About the same time you were enjoying the pomme frities in Germany, I was tasting fish & chips wrapped in newspaper in London. I often wondered whether it was the vinegar or the printers ink that made it taste so good. 😎

  12. Had a related conversation with friends this weekend. We realized all three of us were snobs in some area. For me, it’s music and audio, for one pal it’s motorcycles (which I think are stupid) and another pal it’s her approach to organic gardening and soil nurturing.

  13. It seems to me that learning to peel and cut potatoes and saute’ them in melted butter in a pan is not a hard thing for most people to learn to do. You don’t have to be a cordon Bleu chef and you can experiment with different seasonings. You might find something you like even better than what you remember from your scandalous life in the US Army stationed in Germany. I’m sure Idaho grows potatoes every bit as good as Germany does. Or you could go to a fine German restaurant and pay ten or twenty times as much for what amounts to only a few cents worth of ingredients and not much time or skill. But it has become a “let George do it” world.

    When this hobby started out a lot of people built their own equipment. Even if they didn’t know AC from DC they could buy a kit and if they could use a screwdriver, a pair of pliers, wire cutters, and a soldering iron they could build equipment from a box of parts every bit as good as the factory version and save money. Or if they were really into electronics, they could buy the parts and design their own or reverse engineer someone’s factory built unit for a fraction of the store bought cost. And they still can but it’s a lot easier to let George do it for you. George has kids to feed and a nagging wife who always wants him to buy her something to prove he still cares. He need your money, believe me he needs your money.

    What is better? What exactly does that mean? Your definition is not the same as mine (assuming you have a definition.) You like to sit up front on the right side to be near the double basses. I prefer to sit in the center much further back to hear the hall sounds better. Your better is not my better. So the first thing you need to do if you want better is to figure out what that means to you. You won’t find it wandering around blindly with only monthly magazine copy to guide you. Their definition of better is anyone who pays for an advertisement in their magazine and lends or gives the reviewer equipment on a very long term loan at no cost and even repairs or replaces it for free if it breaks down. For them the bottom line is…..the bottom line. The most money I ever spent on a piece of audio equipment was $750. George was all smiles that day.

  14. In the interest of public safety, I’m publishing a link to a list of foods affected by CRF Food’s recall. This alert was sent to all employees where I work.

    CRF Frozen Foods has expanded its recall of certain frozen fruits and vegetables to include everything produced in its Pasco, WA, facility since May 2014 after learning seven people have become sick with Listeria infections. Two have died. More than 350 products sold under 42 brands are included in the recall. The products were sold in all 50 states and Canada. Several major retailers’ brands are part of the recall, including: Costco, Costco Canada, Walmart, Safeway and Trader Joe’s.


    I have always felt that so called organic foods were potentially dangerous due to contamination by insects and other pests in growing and lacking any of those unpronouncable chemicals they try to frighten you with that prevent mold and bacteria from growing on it after it is packaged and shipped. So much for vegetarianism.

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