Ah, the humble French Fry. Beloved by millions and enjoyed around the world. And a relatively simple (albeit perfect) delicacy, right? Well, not quite, actually. If you really stop and think about it, how much do you know about these little pieces of Heaven? Why are they such a favourite food, where are they from, and what’s next in their gastronomic evolution? Luckily for you, we’re here to fill you in on all things French Fry!
Why Are French Fries So Popular?
Mostly, because they are so downright delicious! The texture contrast of crisp, golden crust with fluffy, soft insides is irresistible to most people. There’s a good chance your mouth is watering right now, just from thinking and reading about them.
And we’re about to make that problem worse, by telling you about how many different toppings work perfectly on this delicacy. That’s the other reason they are so successful; they take on such a variety of flavours, and almost every one of them is a hit.
Tried-and-trusted tomato ketchup is always a winner, as is salt and vinegar. You can’t go wring with classic melted cheese and chilli cheese either, and pairing fries with gravy is never a bad thing. Mayonnaise, truffle oil and parmesan shavings are winners too.
While some of the messier toppings may be difficult to eat by hand, fries are also a fantastic street food. You can enjoy them on the go as you stroll through town, finish a school or work assignment, or play your favourite online slots. And as a late-night snack on the way home from a big night out, there is simply nothing better!
Where Do French Fries Come From?
Like so many culinary legends, the origins of the fried potato strip are murky. Social, cultural and political history is always tied up with food. Think of how the tomato is actually a native of South America but, after being introduced to Europe in the 1500s by Spanish conquistadors, has become an integral part of Italian and other regions’ foods.
The Spanish also lay historical claim to this dish, having brought back potatoes and many other things, along with tomatoes, from the New World. Belgium has serious national pride over them, serving them with mayonnaise and arguing that they should be called Belgian, rather than French, Fries. And with hundreds of frietkot (fries stands) dotted across the country and a dedicated Frietmuseum, it’s hard to argue.
Naturally, French natives say that pommes frites, or fried potatoes, are from their country and were sold by street vendors for the first time on the Pont Neuf bridge, in 1789. The Belgian argument here is that France appropriated all Belgium’s food.
To make things even more confusing, some say that the “French” in French Fries only dates back to the end of the First World War. American servicemen who came to Belgium, so the story goes, were introduced to the dish and took it home to the United States. Since they had been in the French-speaking region of the country, it’s easy to see how that mistake could have been made.
But that’s still not all! Some people say the name comes from the fact that in Old English “to French” means “to cut lengthways”. And the first mention of French Fries in the United States was actually by Thomas Jefferson, who ordered “potatoes, fried in the French manner” for a White House dinner in 1802. Was he describing the way the spuds were cut or where he thought the recipe was from? Will we ever know?
But back to modern-day reality for a moment. Knowing where these miracles-in-potato-form come from is a little tricky; is it easier to know where they’re going? Although there is some saddening research that links these snacks to cancer and chronic diseases, they can (and should!) still be enjoyed in moderation.
With several gourmet restaurants serving them, it seems people are still eager to celebrate the humble fry. Many eateries dedicated solely to French Fries have sprung up over the years, serving them with everything from grilled ham and cheese to buffalo wings.
Every chef also has their own recipe for making these snacks, usually involving cooking them at least twice, in different batches of oil, at different temperatures. Is it all worth it? You bet it is. As anyone who has eaten these scrumptious morsels knows, a good French Fry is what happy memories are made of; a bad one is an unforgettable disappointment.