belgian, belgium, french, fries, travel

Belgian History: The Great Fry Debate

Fries. French Fries. Frites. Pomme Fries. Sticks of Potatoe-y Goodness. Your date for this Friday night…
Whatever you call them; both France and Belgium lay claim to this delicious treat.
As weird as it seems to argue over the invention of fries – this is a conversation I have had with quite a few Belgian’s, and they are all too certain that Belgium is responsible for your fry-induced happiness.
And guess what? Both theories are actually pretty solid.

The Belgian Theory (1781)

History tells us that Belgians would often fish in the River Meuse (Namur), frying what they caught. However, in bad winters when the river would freeze and fishing wasn’t an option, they had to figure something else out. Eventually they began to cut up potatoes into the shape of small fish and fry them instead.
Roel Jacobs (a specialist in the history of Brussels and it’s culture) has the best outlook on things;
“At the end of the day, we do not care where fries came from. What counts, is what has been done with them. The French and the Belgians took vastly different tracks. For the French, fries normally go with meat, usually a steak while the Belgians eat them on their own or with a sauce,” Jacobs said.

Even if you don’t agree with the Belgian theory, it’s undeniable that Belgian’s have perfected the fry. If you’ve ever been to Belgium, you know the truth;

“We Belgians, we have made fries a noble food, so much more than just a vegetable.” proudly claims Albert Verdeyen, chef and co-author of the book “Simply Fries”

The French theory (1789)

As for the French, supposedly the first fries were served on ‘Pont Neuf’, the oldest bridge in Paris, where street merchants began selling them just before the French Revolution in 1789. Although the French origin theory has been widely accepted and repeated – I spot a tiny problem with this story line. The Belgian’s (according to the history books) were frying potatoes almost an entire decade before the French merchants figured it out.

Despite Belgian claims that fries were in fact invented in The Meuse Valley of Belgium, the expression “French Fried Potatoes”  is what most people associate with the starchy treat. The first use of the term “French Fried Potatoes” occurs in the 1856 book: Cookery for Maids of All Work by E Warren:

“French Fried Potatoes – cut new potatoes in thin slices, put them in boiling fat – add a salt, fry both sides of a light golden brown colour.”

Regardless of the “true story”, people around the world know this startchy treat by the term French Fries – with the exception of (usually all) Belgians, who are clinging to their theory.


Did You Know?

  • The average American will consume almost 30 pounds of fries per year.
  • Thomas Jefferson gets the credit for introducing French fries to America when he served them at a White House dinner in 1802 after reportedly requesting, “potatoes, fried in the French manner.” (Clearly we know what side he was on…)
  • The U.S. eats more fries than any other country, but Belgians consume more French fries per capita. (Because eating them will prove the Belgian’s theory, I guess…)
  • Ed “Cookie” Jarvis won the Nathan’s Famous World French Fry Eating Championship in 1995 by downing a total of 4.46 pounds of fries in six minutes.
  • Frietmuseum in Bruges, Belgium is the first and only museum in the world dedicated to potato fries. 


Who do you believe is actually is responsible for this delicious treat?
While I agree both sides have merit, the only thing I know for sure is that the glorious poutine was invented in Canada!


NY Daily
France 24

Share This:

About Travel Pray Love

Expat motherhood, travel lifestyle blog.
View all posts by Travel Pray Love →

2 thoughts on “Belgian History: The Great Fry Debate

  1. An article on the subject and you’ve not once mentioned their true name…


    Crisps incidentally are the thing that comes in a packet and makes a crisp sound when you munge on them. Obviously ;-).

    What can I say, chips are important to Englishmen 😀 (and English women too).

Leave a Reply