In this protective nationalistic era, people from all over the world strive to acquire ownership of creating certain products, inventions, foods, even ideas. For example, which country was responsible for inventing crispy strips of deep fried potatoes? While Americans call these « French Fries » the English call them simply « chips » and ironically, the French call them just « frites » (meaning « fries » without the French part).
Because of the good ole U S of A, the consensus seems to be that the French are the true originators, taking strips of potatoes and throwing them into a deep fryer thus creating the iconic snack of today. This might be false.
Let’s take a step back in time to track down the truth beginning with where potatoes come from. Based on historical evidence, it appears that potatoes originally came from Peru and Bolivia, and during the 1500s, was discovered in South America by a Spanish explorer. He then introduced potatoes to Europe, much to the distrustful skepticism of the Europeans.
Slowly, it gained popularity, and although it is not definitively known, it might have been the Spanish that were the first to fry up potatoes.
After all, it’s the Spanish that champions fried foods! Others contend that it was, in fact, the Belgians who were the first to create the classic, long crispy pieces of fried heaven. The Spaniards brought the potato to Belgium, at the time, one of its territories and from there Belgians ran with it. (However, perhaps the Spanish showed the Belgians how they prepare potatoes and it spread?) If it was indeed the Belgians, then why do Americans call fries French? Are French Fries from France?
The answer is: who knows? Perhaps Americans during the first World War ate their first fry and since they’d been in francophone areas, that is, French-speaking countries, they simply referred to them as French fries. They might have had them in any number of French-speaking countries but in their mind, French was French, and voila: the French Fry. Of course, there are a slew of theories regarding the origins of this deep fried delicacy.
In any case, the most important thought to derive from all of this is to embrace this amazing culinary invention. What a simple yet satisfying dish that is simply strips of the humble potato, thrown into a deep fryer until crunchy and cooked. It has endeared the world to it and will continue to do so for years to come!