Ever wondered where french fries really come from? As Andrew Petcher discovered, most of Europe is still bickering over the same thing! Celebrated world traveler Andrew Petcher shared his discovery about the “Disputed Origins of Frites” while on the way back from a trip to France.
“There was a mid afternoon channel crossing ahead so we checked out early and made our way along the coast with the intention of stopping somewhere along the way for a last lunch in France before returning to England. The chosen route took us past Boulogne, Wissant, Wimereux and Ambleteuse, all places that we had already visited and we had a mind to stop in Audreselles which we liked the look of but was busy to busting on the day that we had arrived so we had had to drive straight through.
We came across a friterie which the consensus declared to be acceptable and I had to agree that this seemed a very good way to spend our last hour or so in northern France.
Friteries are a feature of this part of France and are a simple place to buy French fries accompanied by a selection of sauces and accompaniments. The thin strips of potato are fried twice, first to drive out the moisture and second to achieve the golden crispness of the French Fry and the friterie we chose was full to overflowing with customers lining up for their favourite combination.
I was interested to discover that there is controversy about the humble French fry, frite or chip and there are conflicting claims to how it came to enter the culinary traditions of so many countries. It is served everywhere in northern France but it is the Belgians who claim that they invented it and there is a rather unlikely tale attached to the claim. The story goes that the local people rather liked eating small deep fried fishes but when the rivers were frozen and fishing became hazardous they cut potatoes in the form of small fish and put them in a fryer instead. I can’t believe that this was going to fool anyone but then again take a look in a supermarket freezer section today and potatoes are cut into all sorts of different shapes to amuse the kids.
Belgium however still stubbornly hangs on to its claim and dismisses the claim of the French themselves by arguing that the description ‘French Fries’ originated due to a linguistic misunderstanding, because in old English ‘to French’ meant ‘cut into sticks’ and because US soldiers in the Second-World-War called them French Fries on account of the fact that the official language of Belgium at the time was French. While researching this I half expected to find a German claim with the fried potato strips no doubt invented by someone called Fritz!
Of course we don’t care what the Belgians, the French or the Spanish think because we are convinced that they are an English invention and that we make a better job of cooking them anyway.Traditionally, chips in the United Kingdom are cut much thicker and since the surface-to-volume ratio is lower, they have a lower fat content. According to legend, the first chips fried in the UK were on the site of Oldham’s Tommyfield Market in 1860.
Anyway, we didn’t concern ourselves with the history of the frite today and we each ordered a medium portion served on a French stick – a sort of continental chip butty – and as we cleared the table and left we declared the simple meal a resounding success.”
Eager to try the disputed Frites of Europe? Try them on one of Bliss Travels‘ trips to France! We also arrange side trips to Belgium–taste both countries’ takes on the famous dish and decide which you prefer!
You can add a custom trip to Brussels at the beginning or end of any of our trips to France. Celebrate the holidays in Paris! Come to Bordeaux and Barcelona in April! Perhaps Paris and Provence in May are more your style? Check out this clip of one of our recent trips to see what Bliss is really about–
We hope to see you on a trip with us soon!