What would the world be like without the good old French fry, that staple of everyday life in the Western world? It is a worrying thought for those of us addicted to the grab-and-go culinary experience of the deep-fried potato (and there are many of us out there).
Let’s face it, without the fries, classic fast-food establishments would be only half the fun (and perhaps only half as profitable). The British would be depressed because half of their national dish, fish ’n’ chips, would not exist. The French and the Belgians would lose the sporting chance to squabble about who came up with the idea in the first place. And there would be less opportunity for the kids of the world to find misadventure in a ketchup bottle (not such a bad thing).
Yes, indeed, life would be different, for, in this global age, the French fry must rank among the most known and most consumed food items on the planet.
In the United States alone, about 2.7 billion kilograms of potatoes are turned into fries each year that’s about 13 kilograms for each person in the country, which ranks No. 1 in French-fry consumption. And as Western tastes ride the global railway into other regions, the fad grows. Korea, for example, upped its consumption by about 400 percent between 1995 and 2000.
Given the fry’s status as an everyday food item now, it may surprise you that this ubiquitos morsel has only been widely accepted in the West for about 200 years.
It has been a long hard road and a story too long to tell here, but suffice it to say that both the French and the Belgians lay claim to the invention, although experts lean towards the Belgians as the French fry’s founding fathers. Pommes frites, as they are known in France, were being sold on the streets around 1870, according to The French Fry Companion.
As for the US, Thomas Jefferson is rumoured to have introduced the French fry after his term as ambassador to France in 1789. He is said to have had them served at the White House, describing the dish as “potatoes served in the French manner.”
While we take French fries for granted today, refining the art of cooking them on a mass scale was not easy. Even the major players in the fast-food market had a tough time in the beginning. Today, the solutions get ever smarter, such as the SKF double-basket lift system that is mounted to the back of Pitco “Solstice” deep fryers, which are used in restaurants around the world. The basket system lifts the fries from the hot oil at the moment of perfection.
So, next time you pop a fry into your mouth, remember that there’s a long history behind the french fry. Bon appétit.