The History of French Fries

Golden brown, crispy, crunchy potatoey goodness. French fries are an all-time favorite found at most American restaurants throughout the U.S. Whether they’re smothered in chili or dipped in ketchup, we just can’t get enough! Have you ever wondered what genius brought us this magically delicious treat? We have… and here’s the answer. We present to you, the History of French Fries.

It all began in Colombia, the coffee-producing capital of the world! We know what you’re thinking. What do French fries and coffee have to do with each other? And the answer is simply, Colombians. In the early 1500s a Spanish gentleman by the name of Jimenez de Quesada pilfered goods left behind in a Colombian village where he discovered potatoes. He, of course, brought these lumpy, exotic products of the earth back to Spain and Italy a few years later.

potatoJimenez attempted to grow potatoes of his own in the less than favorable Spanish soil. Though not an immediate success, his persistence resulted in slightly evolved, less bitter potatoes. Jimenez essentially planted the French fry seed, if you will, and potato popularity gradually spread throughout Europe.

Flash forward to Belgium sometime in the late 17th or 18th century. These fish feasting fiends were known to slice fresh fish into long slivers and fry them. A beloved staple in Belgian cuisine until rivers developed a thick layer of ice in the cold winters. It was during one such winter an ingenious Belgian decided to swap the fish slivers for potato slivers.

Right about now you’re probably thinking, okay but they’re called FRENCH fries. Where do the French enter the scene?

Though the Belgians spurred the idea of fried potato slices, the French popularized this concept. Originally the French believed potatoes to be disease-causing junk and used them exclusively as hog feed. Alleged to cause leprosy, Parliament banned potato cultivation in the mid-1700s. During the Seven Years War, Antoine-Augustine Parmentier, a French army medical officer, encountered potatoes while imprisoned. He quickly realized the bad potato rep was unsubstantiated and began promoting potatoes throughout not only France, but all of Europe.

Parmentier’s efforts were successful. Using various marketing ploys, like inviting famous dignitaries to a dinner during which armed guards would surround the potato patch, he projected the truly special value of potatoes and won people over. Potato famine in the late 1700s following Parmentier’s pro-potato campaign only increased the demand for potatoes throughout France and Europe. After all, we always want what we can’t have, right?

history of french friesOver time, the French happened upon the idea of frying potato slices, French-cut potato slices (French –cut being a style we use even now – think French-cut green beans). Whether they discovered fries on their own or caught wind of the genius taking place in Belgian is unclear. But we do know for certain, the French couldn’t get enough! The greasy potato treat grew in popularity and were sold by push-cart vendors up and down the streets of France.

The French introduced French fries to the U.S. and Britain. And thus the French fry crept its way into our hearts and mouths. America leeched on and grew the popularity of French fries exponentially, spreading them to the non-European world.

And THAT is the History of French Fries. Salty and crunchy morsels that delight our taste buds and haunt our dreams. Head to Shooters Wood Fire Grill today to celebrate the History of French Fries with a basket of crispy waffle fries or steamy sweet potato fries – some of the best French fries in town!