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Food History

Are French Fries Really French?

French fries are a staple comfort food in most countries and there are numerous different preferences as to how one would like them cooked. Some like thin, crispy fries while others like thicker, softer fries. Some like them fried, others like them roasted. One thing all variations have in common is that French fries did not actually originate in France.

French fries were most likely invented in Belgium in the Winter of 1680. The local river in the city of Namur had frozen over with the cold and the poor locals had to invent something new to eat, other than fried fish which they usually ate. They looked to potatoes, a root plant, and sliced and fried them in the same way they used to fry fish. American soldiers were then first introduced to the fries whilst they were stationed in Belgium during World War I. While this tale is, at times, questioned by historians who believed the recipe was invented by French chef Honoré Julien, the Belgians stand firm behind their argument and had officially petitioned for UNESCO to add French fries to the list of Belgian cultural treasures in 2017. To their delight, the petition was accepted. Belgium is also home to the one and only French Fry Museum in the world.

So why are they called French fries one may ask? The main reason behind the name does not even refer to their origins, it simply refers to the ‘French cut’ in which they are prepared. The French cut exposes all sides of the food to the heat of the fryer or oven so that they can cook evenly all around and get their delicious crispy taste. French fries are commonly served as a side dish and many like to dip them in a condiment of their choice, such as ketchup, mayonnaise, barbecue sauce etc. for added flavour. In their country of origin, Belgium, French fries are also eaten with cooked mussels or topped with a fried egg, traditionally served in a paper cone.

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