The History of French Fries

A Friendly Rivalry Between Belgium and France

The history of French fries plays an important role in the long-lasting and for the most part friendly rivalry between France and its neighbor to the north, Belgium.

Belgian History

history of French fries
Lots of Belgian people claim that the potato was first fried in the late 1700's in the region of Wallonie, where the people traditionally ate small fried fish, but were forced to turn to other food when the rivers froze in the winter. Potatoes were sliced in small fish shapes, supposedly to imitate their traditional fare, and then fried in fat.

French History

Pont Neuf, Paris

At about the same time and during the French revolution, many French people claim that the fried potato was invented by Parisien cooks, specifically under the bridges that span the Seine river. This version of the history of French fries is recalled in the name of one type of fry eaten by the French known as Frites Pont-Neuf, named after a famous Parisien bridge.

The Humble Potato . . .

No history of french fries could be complete without a look at the potato. You might be surprised to learn that potatoes actually originated in South America and although they had been brought over to Europe in the 1500's, it took several hundred years for people to get over their natural distrust of this new food.

The Importance of Mr. Parmentier

If potatoes were being cooked at all in Europe at the time, it was mostly due to the efforts of a single man, Antoine-Augustine Parmentier, a Frenchman who championed the unappealing tuber as an excellent food source, even vaunting it's virtues to King Louis XVI. Using some expert marketing strategies, Parmentier managed to spread the popularity of the potato all over France and on into other parts of Europe. He is remembered to this day in the famous French dish, Hachis Parmentier which is a baked ground beef mixture topped with mashed potatoes and cheese.

. . . Rises to Stardom

Times have changed and potatoes are a now a food staple in many parts of the the world. And of course French fries are eaten everywhere in fast food restaurants. One of the reasons for the French fry's fast food success is that people don't want to be bothered to fix them at home. Heating all of that sputtering oil and cleaning up afterwards just doesn't seem to be worth the effort.

The French Fry Machine

In France, most homes are equipped with a friteuse, which you might be familiar with as a deep fryer. This device evenly heats and contains the oil. You can set it to specific temperatures which makes cooking a wide variety of fried foods much easier. They also come with all you need to handle the fried foods and are made to be easy to clean. Thanks to this machine, French fries are frequently eaten in French homes.

How to Make a Perfect French Fry

potatoes
If you own a deep fryer, you can make really good French fires, by cooking them twice. The first cooking is for the inside of the fry and the second to give it a crunchy exterior.
  • Use potatoes that have a lower percentage of humidity - Russets for example.
  • Peel the potatoes and cut them in fries that measure about 1/3 inch on a side. To save on time, try using a French fry cutter.
  • Wash the cut potatoes with cold water to eliminate the starch which can cause the fries to stick to one another.
  • Cook the fries a first time at 325°F (160°C) for four to five minutes. Remove them and drain off any excess oil.
  • As they are cooling, heat the oil to 375°F (190°C) and add the potatoes again, frying shortly until golden brown on the outside.

Not up to frying? Try these easy, no-fuss oven French fries.

Types of French Fries

Of course, the history of French fries is an ongoing story. The French aren't going to stop with just one kind of fry!

  • Pommes Pont-Neuf - The classic French fry measuring about 1/3 of an inch on a side.
  • Pommes Allumettes - Skinny French fries - like what you get at most fast food restaurants.
  • Pommes Paille - Super skinny French fries, often used to garnish a dish.
  • Pommes Soufflées - Round French fries, often served with a meat dish.

Some Popular Condiments

You might be surprised to see what we eat our French fries with in Europe. Ketchup sometimes, but also mayonnaise, tartar sauce, aioli, and my son even eats them with mustard! raw-egg

One of my other sons was surprised when he ate over at a friends house and saw the Belgian father crack a raw egg over a sizzling plate of just cooked French fries.

But I guess he knows what he's doing. After all, according to the history of French fries, it was the Belgiums who invented them. Or was it the French?

Return from history of French fries to French Traditions.

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