French fries. We love them, we eat them, and when asked “if we want fries with that” the answer is always yes. This July 13th is National French Fry Day and in celebration, we took a deep dive out of the frying pan and into the fryer to bring you five fascinating french fry facts.
Despite their name, there is still a debate as to where french fries were invented. The country with one of the strongest claims to their origin is Belgium. The Belgians claim that in the 1700s, Belgian fishermen used to fry up small fish and eat them. In the colder months, when fishing became dangerous, they fried up fish-shaped potatoes and the french fry was born. Given that French is the leading language in Belgium, it’s argued that’s the reason for the misappropriation of the name. Belgium is also the world’s leading consumer of french fries—there’s even a museum in Belgium dedicated to the celebration of fries—so even if they didn’t invent them, their passion is unmatched.
The man responsible for bringing french fries into American hearts, minds and stomachs, is Thomas Jefferson. He had enjoyed “potatoes fried in the French-style” so much during his time in France, he decided to introduce them to a White House dinner in 1802 and a beloved American side dish was born.
Here in America, sliced potatoes fried and seasoned to perfection are most often called “french fries” but around the world, they are known by many other names. Ironically, in France, they’re sometimes called “American fries.” In the United Kingdom they’re known as chips and are generally fried thicker and skin-on. In Canada, fries are most often seen in their poutine dishes; french fries smothered in cheese curds and gravy. And while ketchup is the preferred dipping sauce here, in many European countries french fries are accompanied with mayonnaise or malt vinegar.
French fries are a food that can be enjoyed in many different ways. You can get them thin and crispy, thick and salty, waffled, crinkle-cut, sweet potato or covered in a variety of different toppings like cheese, gravy or—for those of us who like to enjoy salty-sweet combinations—even chocolate. In Amsterdam, you can even get a dish called Patatje Oorlog, a combination of mayonnaise and spicy peanut satay sauce all over thick European-style fries for a wild mashup of international flavors.
While you can order some kind of french fries at just about any restaurant you go to, you can also enjoy them in the comfort of your own home in just a few steps. According to Fine Cooking Magazine, the best way to prepare french fries is to double fry them; once in hot oil (around 320°F) to cook them all the way through, and again in very hot oil (375°F) to make them crispy. An even simpler way to make your own french fries at home is to pick up an airfryer and cook a uniformly-cut medium batch of fries for 20 minutes at 400°F or until you’ve reached your desired crispiness.
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