Monday, July 27, 2009

I've Caught the Frenchies Lying... Yet Again!

Dear Tricia, Are french fries really from France?

Oooh, those Frenchies.... always trying to take credit for our food staples here across the pond. This time, they can't take credit. Its actually Belgium that wins the race in this tour de Fries.
From what I've researched, there are two ideas behind French fries getting their nationality-based name. (Frankly, I think they should be called Ethiopian fries because Ethiopia doesn't have much of an association with food. Isn't it time we help them out?)
Some people believe that the name comes from the act of "frenching" something. (Insert french kiss joke here. Its just too easy.) Have you ever had French-cut green beans? They're just regular green beans cut into thinner strips, just like how a potato is cut into thin strips for fries. I personally disagree with this idea for three reasons:

1. Frenching, when referring to the way you cut something, is more often called a julienne cut.
2. You'll more often hear the term frenching in reference to meat, which is when you trim fat off a piece of bone-in meat to expose the bone. You'll often see this in lamb chops and some roasts. And frankly, bones and fat have nothing to do with fries or potatoes.
3. I'm a sucker for stories. Keep reading.

The second idea behind the name goes all the way back to the 17th century in the magical land we now call Belgium. (In my imagination, they had glitter and unicorns everywhere.) According the Belgian history, the lower class were used to eating small fried fish as a nice little side dish to their meals. However, when the winter came and the rivers were too frozen to fish, they improvised and cut potatoes into long strips and fried those instead. (Historically, the poor people of the world have come up with the BEST food ideas. It's true! Go check out my "Corned Beef: the Other Not White Meat" for proof.) These Belgian fries eventually started to become a popular staple as a side dish.
Lets move forward to World War I, shall we? When British and American soldiers came to Belgium, they tasted these delightful Belgian fries and began to call them "french fries" because French was the language that the Belgian Army was speaking at the time. According to the Belgian Tourist Office website, "...even if they are sometimes refereed to as French Fries there is nothing French about them," and then go on to blame the false nationality on a linguistic misunderstanding. Go check out, if you think I'm drunk and misreading this. (I'll be the first to admit that has happened. More than once.) In fact, according to that website, Belgium is super serious about their Belgian fries. So serious, that they even prefer that the fries be served in a paper cone. Fascinating.
My last reason for not supporting the Frenchies on this one is because if the French wanted to claim the potatoes as their own, wouldn't they have called them "pommes Francais", the literal translation for french fries? But no, they call them "pommes frites" (pronounced "freets") instead, which translates into potato fries. You lose, France.

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