Close your eyes (not really, though, if you want to read this article) and imagine the greatest ambassador of Belgian culinary art. Is it chocolate? Not really. Beer! We thought so too, but it’s not the right time. So… fries, obviously! Think about it: how would you react if a French person told you their country invented fries? We’re going to give you some arguments in response (without throwing sauce on their face…that would be a waste).
We’ll start by the invention of the fry! We already see that the term “fry” comes from the way its prepared. But in all the ancient books that describe the famous fried potato, its shape is nowhere to be found. Even worse, connoisseurs of the time often shared crisps! Fast-forward to the 16th century when the recipe we know today was first archived…in the Czech Republic.
Let’s peel back the Belgian archives. One legend, citing a text from 1680 (bizarrely unfindable), says that the inhabitants of Dinant, Andenne, and Namur replaced small breaded fish with potatoes during famines. They created the famous fries by imitating a popular dish with a substitute ingredient. Except the potato only arrived here around 1735, and fat was very expensive. The first written proof of the Belgian fry cut comes from the book Economie culinaire (by Philippe Edouard Cauderlier) in 1861.
You’ll make your French companion smile. Because another story links the invention, or at least the first historical trace, of the fry to the famous French Revolution (1789). The “pont-neuf” potatoes owe their name to the famous bridge in Paris. Once again, many books name recipes or the sensory quality of fries…often cut in slices! Our honour remains intact: France cooks potatoes like other countries of the world, which is more similar to crisps.
In a word, nobody can prove the invention of the fry as we know it. One thing is for sure: the whole world likes it and Belgium keeps an exceptional aura in the minds of foodies. And just for that, we can pull out our flag, fanfare, and the many Brussels Ketjep sauces that go with our favourite potato!