The Origin Of French Fries Might Surprise You

Who doesn't love a good French fry? The best fried potatoes turn out tender and steamy on the inside, crispy on the outside, not too oily, and plenty salty, making a pile of them the perfect accompaniment to a juicy burger, a rare ribeye steak, or a pot of steamed mussels

You'd be hard pressed to find someone who doesn't like fries. According to the South Florida Reporter, the average American eats nearly 30 pounds of French fries per year, and McDonald's, the world's top seller of fries, slings about nine million pounds of them per day (via Reader's Digest). In fact, 25% of all potatoes consumed in the U.S. are eaten as fries (via South Florida Reporter).

If you've ever munched on a French fry — or if you remember the whole "freedom fries" controversy from 2003 (via CNN) — you may have stopped to think about the name. Beloved all over the world, are French fries actually French? 

Belgium lays claim to inventing French fries

If you had assumed that the name "French fries" indicates that the classic fried potato dish hails from France, you'd be wrong. According to BBC, the crispy spuds were most likely invented in the country's northeast neighbor, Belgium. According to lore, the dish was born in Belgium in the winter of 1680, when the fried fish-loving denizens of a city called Namur had to find something else to cook when the local river froze over (via BBC). While some historians have questioned the authenticity of this tale, Belgium has stood firm in its stance that it created French fries, and successfully petitioned UNESCO to add the dish to Belgium's list of cultural treasures back in 2017 (via Brussels Express).

So why do fries have the word "French" in front of them? The term most likely refers to the dish's method of preparation — not its origins. "Frenching" is a way of cutting ingredients for even cooking, basically a julienne that aims to expose all sides of an item, such as potatoes, to the heat of an oven or fryer (via Delighted Cooking). Technically, the name "French fries" should really be "French fried potatoes." So the next time you bite into a crispy fry, give a quick thanks to the proud citizens of Belgium.