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My French Life: The Big Frite Fight

Who invented Frites

There have been reports of tension between French and Belgian frites experts. It seems that both the Belgians and the French have laid claim to be the inventor of Frites or French fries as we might call them.

Mmm, I’m wondering, do you think the name French fries is a bit of a give-away? Or, a clever and cunning Gallic ploy made up years in advance for just such as time as this?

The French experts claim that the “frite” was invented by street merchants in Paris just after the French revolution in the late 1700’s.

But – the Belgian experts say “non” this is not so. They claim the glory saying that the chip was invented by accident in the 1600s in their country. Apparently when a river in Belgium froze and the fishermen could not catch fish they cut potatoes into small pieces to look like fish and fried them and … voila – the chip.

They even have a museum in Belgium dedicated to chips, I kid you not. The Frietmuseum claims to be the ”first and only museum dedicated to potato fries” and devotes itself to the history of the humble but important potato and the production of Belgian fries. The Frietmuseum says “we can be proud that they actually originate from Belgium”. This piece of culinary genius certainly caught on in Belgium. The Belgians eat more chips per capita than the people of any other European country.

I like the sound of this museum, you can sample fries in the basement cellars of the 14th Century building which houses the chips exhibition. Some 400 artefacts ranging from the days of the Inca upwards.

I don’t suppose we’ll ever know who really invented chips. But what a stroke of luck it was that whoever first dropped a piece of cut potato into a boiling fat and then eat it wasn’t on an Atkins Diet…

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