Written by Serene Joshua, contributing writer
Are French Fries really French? Not exactly…
French fries are not as French as you might think. They are said to have originated in another country…
- It’s believed that French fries were made for the first time in Belgium (a country in Northwestern Europe), near the river Meuse in the 1600s
- It was made popular by one Mr. Fritz in the 19th century at a fair in Liege.
Nowadays, the fry has come a long way with different places in the world putting their own twist on the snack.
Read on to learn more about the French fry’s fascinating history.
Where did French Fries really come from?
According to most French fry experts, these munchies find their origins in Belgium near the river Meuse in the late 1600s.
Here’s how it came to be…
This is a very cold place and villagers near this river mostly depended on fish for food. But, when the winters became harsher the river froze over the villagers turned to potatoes. They then fried these small potatoes, but it wasn’t sliced into thin long strips like the French fries we know now but were probably fried round and flat.
In fact, these French fries (although they are called Belgian fries there), are widely popular in Belgium.
Here’s how popular they are:
Belgium has the world’s only potato fry museum – it’s called Frietmuseum!
They also have street vendors who sell French fries more than anywhere else in the world.
The Belgians love fries so much that they have requested UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) to make the French fry an official icon of their cultural heritage.
So French fries are actually…. Belgium fries?
Here’s what we know…
A very popular gastronomist (someone who studies food and dishes), Pierre Leclerq talks in depth about the origin of French Fries.
He says that the widely accepted belief that French fries were first made in Belgium in the 1600s, might not be all that true.
In order to explain that, he takes us to the very origins of the potato. He explains that the potato was not introduced in Belgium until the 1730s.
This is a long time after the 1600s because if we look at history there were reported harsh winters between 1739 and 1740 in Belgium, and this is when the river Meuse froze up. So, there is a slight change to the story in terms of the date but Leclerq also says that although it makes sense to credit this incident as the origin of the fry, the villagers might as well have fried any other vegetable, we can never know!
How did French Fries become so popular?
This is thanks to a Belgian street seller named Frederic Krieger or “Fritz” as he was better known.
Fritz was a street vendor of Belgian – Bavarian origin who sold fried potatoes at a fair in Liege (a city in Belgium). Soon after this, they became famous and were present at almost every fair in Belgium in the 19th century.
Fritz went from having a small “box” at the fair to sell his fries, to establishing his own restaurant. And thus, he was one of the first people who made French fries a revolutionary snack in the food industry.
So, what’s the French connection??
Here’s the interesting part..
The reason that fries have the name French in them is probably due to the way that they are made.
“Frenching” in the culinary (related to cooking) world refers to the way food is prepared and cut in such a way that it cooks evenly.
French fry dishes in different countries
French fries have come a long way since the little village in Belgium.
Many different countries have their own versions of French fries, all equally tasty.
The British have their fish and chips, in this variation the fries or “chips” the potatoes are cut into short thick pieces, like potato wedges, and served alongside fried fish.
The Canadians have poutine, a dish where they put cheese curds and gravy (which is something like thick curry) on their fries.
Gyros are a very popular snack in Greece – it’s meat, fries, veggies, and tzatziki sauce in pita bread.
The Belgians can also be credited Moules frites which are mussels (a type of shellfish) sauteed in white wine served with fries as a side dish. A fancy way to eat fries!
Now that you know of all these numerous ways to eat French fries, perhaps you can experiment with these munchies and put your own little twist on it!
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