How did French Fries get their name? Here’s all you need to know about the world’s most favourite potato snack
French fries are served as a common side dish to burgers, fried chicken, grilled steak and also, fried fish. The world’s most favourite potato fritters also have cultural variants. In Belgium, fries are often eaten with cooked mussels or with a fried egg on top. The United Kingdom is famous for its fish and chips. In the Middle-East, fries make for a wholesome snack when served with pita bread and other fillings (shawarmas, anyone?). Poutine, a famous Canadian dish, includes french fries and cheese curds topped with a brown gravy.
The origin story
Despite its name and popularity, the French fries are not French. The origins can be found in Belgium, where historians claim potatoes were being fried in the late-1600s.
According to Belgian lore, poor villagers living in Meuse Valley would often ate small fried fish they caught in the river. During the winter months when the river froze, fishing would become an impossible task and forced villagers to find other sources of food.
This is when the villagers turned to the root plant, potatoes, slicing and frying them just like the way they prepared fish.
American soldiers were first introduced to the fries while they were stationed in Belgium during World War I.
Fries, or French fries, are one of the most popular side dishes in the world. They find accompaniment in dips, mayonnaise, ketchup, and even vinegar.
The French fries’ American connection
According to an early 19th century manuscript written by then-US President Thomas Jefferson, he talks about a dish called ‘Pommes de terre frites en petites tranches’ (Potatoes deep-fried while raw, in small slices). Some historians have claimed that this recipe came from the French chef, Honoré Julien. By 1850s, this recipe gained so much popularity that it became a mainstay in several American cookbooks as ‘French Fried Potatoes’.
Did you know Belgium is also home to the world’s first, and so far the only, French Fry Museum? The tasty snack also has a day assigned to it. National French Fry Day is celebrated across the US on July 13 every year.
In 2014, Belgium sought to give French fries a cultural heritage status. According to a 2014 report by Reuters, “Belgian fries are traditionally sold, in a paper cone, in a “fritkot”, generally a shack or trailer. There are some 5,000 of these in Belgium, making them 10 times more common, per capita, than McDonald’s restaurants in the United States.”
“To become recognized by the United Nations’ cultural arm UNESCO, they need to be endorsed by a minister of culture, and Belgium has three of them,” it added.
“The government of the Dutch speaking region of Flanders recognized Belgian fries as an integral part of national culture this year, and the French- and German-speaking communities are expected to debate the issue next year. UNAFRI, the national association of fritkot owners, which started the drive, says the unpolished establishments are uniquely Belgian, combining the country’s embrace of chaos with a dislike of corporate uniformity,” the report continued.
Even though potatoes are a versatile vegetable, the Belgian/French discovery remains a sinful treat we will be ready to munch on, without counting those calories!