Thursday, September 16, 2010


Yum yum.

They're one of the most basic fast foods in the modern world. Every minute, thousands of deep-fried potato strips slide down the hungry gullets of people from Anchorage to Addis Abeba. But do you know the origins of this magnificent food?

If you're from North America, you probably call them "French fries", which is a common mistake. You can thank your (great-)great-grandparents for this.

The first potatoes were fried in the Meuse valley in modern-day Belgium in 1680. Over two hundred years later, during the First World War, the fries became popular among American troops serving in the area. Because their colleagues in the Belgian Army only spoke French, it would be harder for the Americans to make a distinction between French and Belgian culture and cuisine. Thus, when the troops returned home, they told everyone about the "French fries" they had been served in Europe. Today you can find fries on the menu of restaurants in all 50 states - even the one with Springfield in it:

Thank you, Lord, for this bountiful Belgian food.
A still from The Simpsons Movie (2007).

The tradition from 1680 is alive and well in today's Belgium. In millions of househoulds you will find a countertop deep fryer, and on every street is a fries shop (called a friterie if you speak French and frituur if you speak Dutch) selling the national snack in white paper cones. The most common condiment is mayonnaise, but you can also get them with ketchup, barbeque sauce, or "gypsy sauce", the contents of which I'm not sure I want to know. The idea of putting mayonnaise on fries used to be as foreign to me as eating a snail, but now I never eat fries without it.

My future father-in-law rocks one of these like Hendrix with his Strat.
The majestic deep fryer, a mainstay of the Belgian home kitchen.

Fries are also a vital ingredient in the country's national dish, mussles and fries, which I will tell you about later. For now, remember that "French" fries are really Belgian, and the best ones have mayonnaise on them.


  1. Yam yam! ^_^
    It's a good thing you point this out, because most people really think fries originated in France! I love your writing style, baby, it's brilliant :) Never stop! <3 <3 <3

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