French-fried potatoes are batons of deep-fried potato. They are served hot, either soft or crispy, and generally eaten as an accompaniment with lunch or dinner, or eaten as a snack. They are a typical fixture of fast food.
It is claimed that fries originated in Belgium, and the on-going dispute between the French and Belgians about where they were invented is highly contentious, with both countries claiming ownership. The popularity of the term “French fries” is explained as a result of “French gastronomic hegemony” internationally, where the cuisine of Belgium was assimilated because of a lack of understanding.
Belgian journalist Jo Gérard (died in 2006) claims/ed that a 1781 family manuscript recounts that potatoes were deep-fried prior to 1680 in what was then the Spanish Netherlands (present-day Belgium), in the Meuse valley: “The inhabitants of Namur, Andenne, and Dinant, had the custom of fishing in the Meuse for small fish and frying, especially among the poor, but when the river was frozen and fishing became hazardous, they cut potatoes in the form of small fish and put them in a fryer like those here. The only problem that Gérard has not produced the manuscript that supports this claim, which, even if true, is unrelated to the later history of the French fry, as the potato did not arrive in the region until around 1735. Also, given 18th century economic conditions: “It is absolutely unthinkable that a peasant could have consecrated large quantities of fat for cooking potatoes, because at most they were sautéed in a pan.
Some people believe that the term “French” was introduced when British and American soldiers arrived in Belgium during World War I and consequently tasted Belgian fries. They supposedly called them “French”, as it was the local language and official language of the Belgian Army at that time, believing themselves to be in France. At this time, the term “French fries” was growing popular; however, in the south of Netherlands, (bordering Belgium), they were, and still are, called Vlaamse frieten (“Flemish fries”) “Pommes frites“, “frites” (French), or “frieten” became the national snack and a substantial part of several national dishes, such as Moules-frites, Flemish carbonade etc.
Many Americans attribute the dish to France and offer as evidence a notation by U.S. President Thomas Jefferson. “Pommes de terre frites à cru, en petites tranches” (“Potatoes deep-fried while raw, in small slices”) in a manuscript in Thomas Jefferson’s hand and the recipe almost certainly comes from his French chef, Honoré Julien. In addition, from 1813 on, recipes for what can be described as French fries occur in popular American cookbooks. By the late 1850s, one of these uses the term French fried potatoes.
French fries in Belgium are generally salted and, in their simplest and most common form, are served with a large variety of Belgian sauces and eaten either on their own or with other snacks such as fricandelle or burgers. Traditionally, fries are served in a cornet de frites (French), frietzak/fritzak (Dutch), or Frittentüte (German), a white cardboard cone, then wrapped in paper, with a spoonful of sauce on top. They may also be served with other traditional fast-food items, such as frikandel/fricadelle, (meatballs or croquette In the Netherlands, fries are sold at snack bars, often served with sauce mayonnaise or curry ketchup and in addition to them popular options are (also see on the picture):
Aioli, garlic mayonnaise
Sauce Andalouse – mayonnaise with tomato paste and peppers.
- Sauce Americaine – mayonnaise with tomato chervil onions, capers and celery.
- Bicky Dressing (Gele Bicky-sauce), a commercial brand made from mayonnaise, white cabbage, tarragon, cucumber, onion, mustard and dextrose.
- Curry mayonnaise.
- Mammoet-sauce – mayonnaise, tomato, onion, glucose, garlic, soy sauce
- Peanut sauce– when combined with mayonnaise and optionally raw onion, this is called patat oorlog (“war fries”).
- Samurai-sauce – mayonnaise with sambal oelek.
- Sauce “Pickles” – a yellow mayonnaise-based sauce with turmeric, mustard and crunchy vegetable chunks, similar to Piccalilli.
- Pepper-sauce – mayonnaise with green pepper, garlic, glucose.
- Tartar sauce
- Zigeuner sauce, a “gypsy” sauce of tomatoes, paprika and chopped bell peppers, borrowed from Germany
These sauces are generally also available in Belgian supermarkets. In addition to this, hot sauces are sometimes offered by friteries, including hollandaise sauce, sauce provençale, Béarnaise sauce, or a splash carbonade flamande stew from a constantly simmering pot, in the spirit of British chips and gravy.