Belgium vs France- The Eternal Battle Of Who Invented The Delicious French Fry
We can all agree, French Fries are the Shah Rukh Khan of snack foods. Consistent, reliable and we’re not sure if Gauri Khan likes them or not.
These salty sticks of deliciousness are a worldwide favourite. We eat them with ketchup, mustard, ice-cream and then there are the psychopaths who prefer them plain.
But where the hell did they come from? Let’s try seeking answers.
First off, everyone’s favourite vegetable – the humble potato – didn’t make its way to Europe until the 1500’s. And how did it get there? Imperialism, yay!
Historians believe that when Spanish forces were terrorizing Colombia, they came across an abandoned village. It was there they found potatoes. But these were quite unlike the ones we know today. Small and bitter, they were initially referred to as “truffles”. About 20 years later, the vegetable was brought back to Spain and cultivated.
Over time, they grew closer to the potatoes we know today.
After here the story is split up between two nations – the chocolate covered blip on a map that is Belgium and the goose liver-eating weirdos of France.
In the Meuse Valley in Belgium, it was a common practice to fry up little fish as a source of food. But since fish isn’t really easy to come by in the winter, they frequently had to find other sources of food. So at some point in time, it apparently led them to slice up potatoes and fry them to eat in the winter.
This practice began somewhere around the 17th century. Also, Spain was in control of a big chunk of Belgium at the time, which is why it makes sense that they would have access to the vegetable.
So score for Belgium.
On the other hand, the popularity of the potato in France is credited to a man called Antoine-Augustine Parmentier. He was a French army medical officer who was big on potatoes and went around telling people how awesome they were. Because before that, France didn’t have much use for potatoes.
In fact, France just used potatoes to feed pigs.
They believed that potatoes were full of disease-causing germs and eventually banned the cultivation of potatoes because they believed that potatoes caused leprosy.
It was only when the aforementioned Antoine-Augustine Parmentier was captured as a prisoner during the Seven Years war and made to eat potatoes in prison that he realized how edible potatoes really were.
Initially, the idea was so disgusting that even after potatoes were legally declared as safe to eat, people refused a bite. But Parmentier didn’t give up. He apparently hosted glamourous dinners featuring potatoes. He also hired guards for his potato garden to trick people into thinking they were really valuable.
Eventually, after a famine, the French realized how great potatoes were and never looked back. Potatoes fries were reportedly discovered somewhere around this time in France, around the 18th century. They became extremely popular in Paris where they sold in the streets and called “frites”.
Now, it could be that the Belgians are right and the French are trying to steal credit. Or that the French are right and Belgians are a bunch of liars. Or that the two countries just happened to figure it out separately. But France popularized the fry enough to spread it to USA and Britain.
In fact, the very first instance of the potato preparation being referred to as “French” is in 1802 when Thomas Jefferson, President of the United States requested a French style potato preparation for dinner. And his chef just shoved some fries in his face.
Either way, whoever actually came up with them, we’re just thankful they did.
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