Thin or thick, served hot, soft or crispy and had as snack food or in accompaniment to main course of lunch or dinner; french fries or just fries (known as chips or finger fries) are batonnet or allumette-cut deep fried potatoes. An all time favourite especially for children, foodies, surprise occasions; they can be had salted or plain, or with ketchup, vinegar, mayonnaise, local specialty sauces and dips, or even be topped more heavily as chilli cheese fries, poutine and the like.
“Even if I’m eating healthy, I let myself indulge with french fries. That’s my favorite thing. You only live once!” Kate Mara
Like all the best things in the “food dictionary”, the origin or creator of these “golden strips” aren’t exactly known. Although the general consensus is that the “French Fry” is more of “Belgian origin than French.”
Potatoes were first introduced to Europe through the Spanish. On the Spanish exploration of Americas, they had encountered potatoes among the native food supply. As accounts of Jimenez de Quesada and the Spanish forces ( 1537) detail the discovery of potatoes among the native villages of Colombia, where they were called as “truffles” initially. When potatoes were brought back to Spain and introduced to Italy too. Then these potatoes were quite small, bitter and didn’t grow well in both places. Over time, larger and less bitter varieties were cultivated and gradually accepted elsewhere in Europe. Spain then controlled much of the modern day Belgium. While historical accounts indicate that Belgians were frying up ( or sauteing) thin strips of potatoes ( 17th to 18th century) in the Meuse Valley between Dinat and Liege. This idea could possibly arise from the original Belgian cuisine which usually fried small fish as part of their staple meals. With shortage of fish in winter, potatoes were an alternative.
“I try to have no absolute nos. I love french fries, I like a good burger, and I like pie. And that’s okay.” Michelle Obama
To explain the “French” of the French fries would be possible when two historical events are taken into account. What once the French had considered as hog feed or cause of various diseases, the change in their opinion due to potatoes was largely credited to the French Army medical officer Antoine-Augustine Parmentier, who was a captive of the Seven Years War and had survived on potatoes as a part of his prison rations. On his return back to France, he had aggressively campaigned as well as cultivated potatoes, promoting it’s benefits to the upper classes as well.
Also during the Franco-Austrian War, which had taken place near around the modern day Belgium, the possibility that French soldiers were introduced to the potato fries by the Belgians exists. Although gradually potato was accepted and cultivated in France; the famine of 1785 made potatoes popular in France. Slowly newer recipes and modes of cooking these spuds were tried. Once discovered or invented or improvised (from Belgian fries?), these fries became popular, especially in Paris, where they were known as “frites” and sold by push-cart vendors on the streets.
“Show me a person who doesn’t like french fries and we’ll swap lies.” Joan Lunden
Whether from Belgium or France, once these “frites” became popular, through colonization, migration as well as wars; they had become a much loved food on the menus across Europe, Britain and Americas. With the spread of fast food chains, these “frites” began to be introduced to the world largely as “French Fries”.
“If I could eat French fries every day of my life, I would.” Adrienne C. Moore
The modern day french fries, though best loved when salted, spiced and fried in oil; for more healthier options can be baked (or even grilled) with seasonings, toppings and all. From the various types of cut fries (crinkle-cut or wavy, curly, shoestring, steak, tornado, waffle) to different preparations like french fry sandwiches, chilli cheese fries, chorrillana to mention a few as well as alternatives like sweet potatoes or potato wedges; one can go creative with these frites. To celebrate the National French Fry day ( July 13th) it would be fun to go on a limb and try the regular to the different combination of the modern fries. For the more experimental ones, it would be interesting to combine fries to the regular dishes. For those of us who dislike potatoes or want healthier options, try baking sweet potatoes, thinly sliced carrots or beetroot with seasoning and all. After all the whole point of food is to relish various flavours, experiment, enjoy and simply have fun.