Interesting History of French Fries

Alex Williams
7 Min Read

French fries are known by various names in different nations. There’s a debate over where they were first made and eaten. There is a history of French fries which is still uncovered. Hence, in some places, it is considered to have been originated in France; while some believe that French fries are Belgian. In North American English, they are called French fries; while in Indian English, they are famous as finger chips, and in British English, they are simply called chips.

1. History of French Fries

For immediate clarification, they are not French. According to historians, the evidence discovered about potatoes being fried was in the late 1600s. As per Belgian lore, the villagers living in the Meuse Valley were not well-off. So, they used to catch small fish from the river, fry them, and eat them. But during winters when the river froze, they was a shortage of food. Hence, they decided to plant roots. Potatoes were easy to plant and winter did not cause a hindrance in their growth. Soon they realized potatoes were easy to slice and fry, just like fish.

Journalist Jo Gérard of Belgium claimed that a family manuscript from 1781 also recounts that potatoes were deep-fried in the Meuse valley, which is present-day Belgium, before the year 1860. But, the claims made by the journalist were not backed by solid proof. There were fewer chances of poor villagers to gather so much fat for frying those potatoes. This is the history of French Fries. (See Who Invented The Potato Chip)

2. Origin of Name

Since French fries are Belgian, the American soldiers stationed at the western end of the Belgium border, during World War I, came across fries and bought these fried potatoes. As French was the local language of the Belgium Army at that time, therefore, they were called French Fries. So, towards 1899, French fries became famous on the streets of the United States of America. Soon, it became everyone’s favorite.

3. A Story from Paris

A French pharmacist and agronomist, Antoine-Augustin Parmentier, a well-known potato promoter, promoted eating potatoes for sustenance. Earlier during World War, potatoes, bread, and pumpkins were considered to be the food of the poor. He tried to end this thought and made people aware of the qualities of potatoes. Although it is not clearly mentioned as fried potatoes or anything related to frying, he does mention that they can be eaten in various ways.

From the manuscript of the U.S President, Thomas Jefferson, a handwritten note was discovered approximately around 1801-1809. The note mentions potatoes deep-fried while raw, in small slices. (See Do French Fries Really Come From France?)

4. French Fries in other Countries

As time advanced, French fries also traveled across the globe.

  • These fries entered German-speaking countries during the 19th century and came to be called Pommes Frites, or only Pommes or Fritten (derived from the French words, but pronounced as German words).
  • In the United Kingdom and Ireland, they became popular in the early 18th century and by the year 1813, the recipes related to fried potatoes began to be published in famous cookbooks.
  • Having nothing to do with the history of French fries, the other countries just enjoyed the taste of these fried potatoes. Also, towards the 1850s, fries had become so popular that they were centerpieces in many cookbooks as French-Fried Potatoes.

5. French Fries in France

These fried potatoes are made widely across France and French-speaking countries, despite how disputed the origin of French fries may be. They are known by the name Pommes de terre frites usually. But in the local language, they are also called Pommes Frites, Patates frites, or simply frites.

6. In the Stories

A food lover from the 17th century and a famous author, Charles Dickens, wrote about various breakfast foods, pints of beer, and dinner plates. But during 1859, in one of his novels, A Tale of Two Cities, he wrote about French fries. They were described as husky chips of potato, fried with some reluctant drops of oil. He was the first to write about French fries in literature. (Also see Who Invented Crackers?)

7. Fries Museum

Despite the question about being the originator of French fries, Belgium did not step back. These people are so proud of their history of French Fries that they even built a museum for it. Frietmuseum, is located in Bruges, Belgium. The visitors get a chance to know about the historical recipes of fries, as well as, the recipe to make perfect French fries at home.

8. Freedom Fries

During the year 2003 when Bob Ney was the chairman of the Committee on House Administration, he changed the name of the fries in the cafeteria menu. He named them Freedom Fries. The reason behind this change of name was because France opposed the U.S plan to invade Iraq. So, to show their firm stand on it, the Congressman of the U.S tried to take out the word French from fries. But as the favor changed among the nations, so did the name on the menus. It was changed back to French Fries in 2006. (See Where Did Pasta Originate?)

9. Fries for a Dime

Back in the 1950s, McDonald’s menus had an item called small fries for a dime. Well, a dime is a ten-cent coin in the United States. Like 1 dollar = 100 cents, which means there are ten dimes in 1 U.S dollar. So, with 1 U.S dollar, we could have bought a huge quantity of French fries at that time. (Also See Who Invented Pizza?)

We all know about the history of French fries and how they traveled around the world.

Share this Article
Leave a comment