National French Fry Day 2022: Fun facts on the crispy food that became an American staple

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There’s no denying that Americans love their French fries.

The fried potato dish has its own national day – July 13 – and Americans eat more than 4.5 billion pounds of French fries each year, according to GRIT, a rural lifestyle magazine.

That estimate beats out the French fries’ crunchy cousin, the tater tot, which has about 75 million pounds eaten per year.

While Americans and restaurants of all types seem to love French fries, not everyone knows how these sliced ​​potatoes came to be.

THINGS YOU DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT FRENCH FRIES

Here’s a brief look at the history of French fries in honor of National French Fry Day 2022.

What are French fries?

French Fries are served in restaurants of all types all throughout the country.
(iStock)

French fries are made from thinly sliced ​​potatoes, which are deep-fried until crispy. They are typically served hot with seasonings or condiments and can have a soft or crunchy consistency depending on the maker’s preference.

People typically eat French fries for lunch or dinner or have them as a midday snack.

There are various French fry styles, including standard cut, crinkle cut, potato wedges, curly fries, steak fries, waffle fries, shoestring fries, cottage fries and more.

FRANCE, BELGIUM ARGUE OVER FRENCH FRY ORIGINS

Potatoes that are popularly used to make French fries are russet, Yukon gold and sweet potato.

Frying oils are up to personal preference, but they could include vegetable oil, peanut oil, canola oil, safflower oil and corn oil – all of which have a higher smoke point than olive oil.

French fries are typically deep-fried in hot bubbling oil.

French fries are typically deep-fried in hot bubbling oil.
(iStock)

Even still, some French fry makers incorporate olive oil into their cooking. We’re looking at you Smashburger!

When submerging fries in oil isn’t a possibility, some cooks opt for ovens or air fryers to make the crisp snack.

Who invented the French fry?

While “French” is in the dish’s name, multiple countries claim to be the originators of fries.

In France, the first French fry recipe was documented in 1795 with Madame Mérigot’s “La Cuisinière Républicaine” cookbook – which translates to “The Republican Cook,” in English.

French fries were a popular Parisian street food in the 18th- and 19th-century, according to a 2019 article from Le Figaro – a French daily morning newspaper.

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Belgium, on the other hand, has some believers who think fries got their start in Battlefield of Europe around the same time.

Belgian fries, also known as frites, are a popular summer street food that's served at festivals.

Belgian fries, also known as frites, are a popular summer street food that’s served at festivals.
(iStock)

The lore of Belgian fries reportedly dates back to the 1980s. Belgian journalist Jo Gérard wrote an article claiming to have found an 18th-century family manuscript that states fries were created before 1680 in the Meuse valley, where people reportedly fried potatoes when waters froze over and prevented fishing.

However, the manuscript Gérard mentioned was never made available to the public.

Critics doubt the story because potatoes were considered a New World colony crop and weren’t easily accessible in the region during that time for working-class groups, according to French historian Thomas Beaufils, who wrote: “Les Belges” (“The Belgians” ), a tourist guide.

Belgian-made French fries are known as “frites” and are a popular dish in the country.

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Over in Spain, people argue that the Spanish invented fries since conquistadors were the first European group to bring potatoes to the continent from Peru in the 16th century.

Huevos rotos, also known as Spanish broken eggs, is a recipe that's often served with French fries and chorizo ​​sausage.

Huevos rotos, also known as Spanish broken eggs, is a recipe that’s often served with French fries and chorizo ​​sausage.
(iStock)

Saint Teresa of Ávila, a Spanish saint who reportedly lived from 1515 to 1582, fried potatoes in a similar fashion, according to Paul Ilegems, a professor curator of the Friet Museum in Bruges, Belgium. The museum is dedicated to the history of fries.

Russia also has a French fry-like dish known as “russe” or “cosaque,” which are said to be tied to a 19th-century food vendor named Herr Krieger, who marketed the dish under the name Mr. Fritz, according to Navefri-Unafri, a Belgian online resource for fry shop owners.

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4 fun facts about French fries

Do you know these French fry facts?

one. A “small” 71-gram serving of French fries contains about 222 calories, according to the USDA.

2. The average American eats nearly 30 pounds of French fries in a single year, according to National Geographic.

French fries are commonly served with salt and ketchup.

French fries are commonly served with salt and ketchup.
(iStock)

3. The North American French fry market is expected to surpass $9.9 billion by 2026, according to a market research forecast published by Allied Market Research.

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4. Fast food restaurants Checkers and Rally’s are petitioning the National Day Calendar to move National French Fry Day to the second Friday in July, so the “fry day” can always be celebrated on a Friday.