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Good will Hunt  |Anchors away   | Frog takes a dive| Piano man

Want fries with that?

Somewhere between the Grand Canyon and the Great Pyramids is the eighth wonder of the world.

By David Van Meter

At least that's what Candace Vanice '92 contends in her fat-free creation, 8th Wonder Fat Free Fries. And judging from strong supermarket sales across 45 cities and eight states, the 26-year-old inventor may soon affect the supply of ketchup.

The wonder fries are not just another Ore Ida imitation (which incidentally turned down her offer to manufacture the fries). Vanice uses Yukon Gold potatoes, crinkle-cutting and soaking them in water. The spud wedges are then dipped into Vanice's proprietary blend of egg whites and spices and baked for about 30 minutes.

Voila. Rumor has it that even the most hardcore McDonald's fry junkie can become accustomed to the 8th Wonder Fries, much like a heroin-to-methadone program. "Most people don't realize that potatoes themselves don't contain fat," she said from her Kansas City home. "Our special coating brings out the flavor of the potato without adding the unwanted fat."

The patented process took a while to come by, but the motivation came early. A freshman at TCU, Vanice began to experience the "freshman 15," a temporary weight gain typically afflicting new female college students. Initially, she simply kept fried foods at arm's length. She began experimenting with the fries after she transferred to the University of Kansas to be with her future husband, Jonathan. A vinegar spice concoction. A milk-based method. Then she remembered her grandmother, who would cover the tops of her homemade bread with an egg-white glaze, making it both shiny and crispy.

Six months later, Vanice had perfected her fry.

"When I created them, I didn't intend to put them on the market, I just ate them at home with my friends," she said. "It wasn't like I was in the kitchen making them nonstop." In fact, Vanice was hard at work as a mathematician number cruncher for insurance companies, measuring their risk, not realizing she was about to take one of her own.

She and her husband, who owns a landscaping business, have taken a leap of faith financially and won't even begin to see proceeds from her potato product for some time. Vanice travels three days a week promoting her product, the rest of the week putting her mathematics degree to work juggling the finances of her fledgling business. Tasting her invention, the numbers seem to add up to success.

"Most of the time, I'm just amazed that I was able to do this," Vanice said. "I knew so little going in, and I still have a lot to learn."

Yet, faced with a plate of the latest wonder and a pile of the Golden Arches' brand she used to crave, Vanice easily denies the temptation.

"I eat mine," she said, "because after I eat a big plate of my fries, I've eaten something that still tastes great. . . and I don't feel guilty."