Friday, August 6, 2010

French Fries….are they really French??

Ah the French Fry, who doesn’t like them? Delicious and tasty (and slightly unhealthy yes I know), but whether they are drenched in salt, vinegar or tomato sauce and mayo, they are a very very popular fast food!

We all know the Dutch love their fries, it is like a national treasure to them. Known as "patat," Dutch fries are prepared fresh and not frozen at a number of stalls. The fries you order there will be the thick, steak fry variety, and they'll be served to you in a paper cone and topped with a dollop of creamy mayonnaise. Fries are so commonly served this way that to order them one simply asks for patat "met", or "with."

The Dutch, however, cannot take responsibility for inventing the fry. Neither can the French. That honour goes to the Belgians where fries are cherished even more than they are in Holland. The fry culture in Belgium is similar to that of Holland—fries are everywhere, the thick slabs of potatoes are freshly fried and served in paper cones, and they are offered with a variety of toppings, the most popular being mayonnaise—but the Belgians have also developed a wide variety of specialized fries shops, called, in Belgium "frietkots" or "fritures". These range from small stands, to sheds, busses and caravans, to shacks or quaint chalets.

The story goes that fries date back to 1680: the inhabitants of Namur, Andenne and Dinant in Belgium used to fish in the Meuse River and fry the little fish they caught to improve their diet. However, when rivers and streams froze over and it was dangerous to fish, people used to cut potatoes into the shape of little fish and fry them.

As for the name "French fries", it is alleged to come from either the Irish "to french", meaning "to cut", or from the American allies who, when they landed in the Belgian Ardennes, tasted the incomparable fried potatoes and called them "French fries", French for the language spoken by the inhabitants and fries because of the way they were cooked. Whenever the case may be, fries are definitely Belgian!