French Fries is a Misnomer. They are really Belgian Fries!

The Story behind the Name

First, a disclaimer. I am not a professional french fry expert. But when traveling in the southern half of Belgium, Wallonia, french fries are a Belgian thing. (No, they do not acknowledge the French in this matter at all!) It's very common to see Friteries, small restaurants specializing in Fries (Frites). Not unlike McDonalds locations in the USA, Friteries are just about everywhere you go. They are amazing, tasty, and have gourmet specialties. Not as many as Baskin Robbins' 31 Flavors of Ice Cream, but there is a large variety to choose from.

Latin Club

Pom-Frit - means "fried apple" but can mean "fruit". Pom, or apple has many applications. Some have made it as names in English and Italian:

Pome-dore - is the Italian name for tomato. It gets it name from the golden ring located at the top (stem area) of the tomato. Pom-a-dor-ie is how it's pronounced.

Pome-granat - is the English word for Šipak (the Croatian name for Pomegranate). Granat literally means tiny pieces. The apple with the tiny particles - kind of its its description.

Friterie findings

Potatoes are a second hand commodity, since they were first discovered in the New World and brought back to Europe. The same is true of tomatoes and squash. Potatoes became a big hit in many traditionally poorer areas of the world, like Ireland and the Wallonia area which was very poor until coal was discovered not far from Charleroi.

For dinner one night I was fortunate enough to be invited to eat in a real Belgian home. A fantastic meal was served - cocktail, appetizer, roasted meat and - guess what else. Pomfrit and Brussels sprouts! The hostess explained that I simply could not leave Belgium without tasting them because they were a genuine Belgian specialty!

Pommes Frittes! with Special Sauce - YUM YUM

Golden fries with a secret sauce - taking the potato very seriously!
Golden fries with a secret sauce - taking the potato very seriously!

Potatoes in the Low Lands

Potatoes prevented many peasants from starving during crop failures. Except for the tragic Potato Famine in the middle 1800s, potatoes have always been a hardy vegetable, growing underground and largely unaffected by cold snaps. A root vegetable, it is dense and filling, containing about 100 calories when boiled and 300 - 400 calories when deep fried in oil.

Van Gogh's early piece - the Potato Eaters

Slightly grotesque, this was painted when Van Gogh was still painting people.  They are called the Potato Eaters because that is their main food staple in the painting.
Slightly grotesque, this was painted when Van Gogh was still painting people. They are called the Potato Eaters because that is their main food staple in the painting.
ching, ching!
ching, ching!

The Streets of Belgium

Tall and narrow buildings neatly lined up to the street are typical in the older sections of historical Belgium.  Some are triangle topped, others have a crown to signify the royal government.  Rain or shine, bicycles are a popular form of transport
Tall and narrow buildings neatly lined up to the street are typical in the older sections of historical Belgium. Some are triangle topped, others have a crown to signify the royal government. Rain or shine, bicycles are a popular form of transport

Other Belgian Things

  • The popular comic book character, Tin-Tin (pronounced Taan-Taan) with the little white dog, Milou (or Snowy, in English).
  • Headquarters of the European Union, which is located in Bruxelles, BE.
  • Belgian Waffles, complete with whipped cream and fresh strawberries.
  • Beautiful, handmade Belgian lace, a local specialty.
  • Brussels Sprouts.
  • The little Prince (who is pissing)
  • Great Cheeses
  • Interesting, Secessionist type architecture
  • Little crowns on tops of important buildings
  • Belgian Beer, famous for its color and stoutness. (There are people who have claimed to move there just for the beer!)
  • The Atomium - home of the 1958 World's Fair right outside of Brussels, Belgium (see photo below)

The Little Piss (Pis)

The prince had been lost, and when they found him, he was pissing.  That is why his image is referred to as Manneken Pis (the little piss boy)!
The prince had been lost, and when they found him, he was pissing. That is why his image is referred to as Manneken Pis (the little piss boy)!

Belgian lace

Madame is preparing some beautiful traditional Belgian lace patterns, a dying art.
Madame is preparing some beautiful traditional Belgian lace patterns, a dying art.

Comic Book Hero Tin Tin with Milou!

Tin-Tin

Steven Spielberg recently made a movie depicting Tin-Tin, the fresh faced detective. It was released in 2011. He and his little dog solve mysteries and make friends in the wonderful Comic book series - turned cartoon - turned full length feature film. In English, the little dog is named "Snowy". He's a real scene stealer and courageous little dog that qualifies as a partner in crime to young Tin-Tin.

Location of the 1958 World's Fair

The Atomium has several elevators, including the then-fastest elevator in the world (1958).  A gift shop is located in a lower section, and a restaurant is located towards the top with an excellent view of the city.
The Atomium has several elevators, including the then-fastest elevator in the world (1958). A gift shop is located in a lower section, and a restaurant is located towards the top with an excellent view of the city.

An Obvious Fact

While visiting a transplanted Brit, a talented musician, who was now living in the suburbs of Brussels, "Why did you move here?" I imagined any number of possibilities. Love, a job opportunity, or something else highly significant to make him change his life, address and nationality. And how did he respond?

"The Belgian Beer"

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Comments 4 comments

alocsin profile image

alocsin 4 years ago from Orange County, CA

Thanks for this overview on the popular side dish. I think we call them French Fries here in the U.S. because when we were in Paris, it was a common side dish with almost everything we ordered. Voting this Up and Interesting.


EuroCafeAuLait profile image

EuroCafeAuLait 4 years ago from Croatia, Europe Author

Yes, until recently I didn't know that plain old French Fries could be such a gourmet delicacy when they are Belgian Fries. Thanks for reading and commenting, I appreciate it!


SandyMcCollum profile image

SandyMcCollum 4 years ago

That Snowy is a smart dog! ;) Interesting article, I love reading about places and customs that are foreign to me.


Darrylmdavis profile image

Darrylmdavis 4 years ago from Brussels, Belgium

The secret to good "frites" (Belgians never call them pommes-frites...this term - oddly enough - is used by the French) is really two-fold: use floury potatoes (preferably older ones, not fresh ones)and cook them twice: "par frying" them at mid heat (which you can do a little in advance) and a second frying on high heat.

And for a proper Belgian touch, take a stab at homemade mayo...you'll be glad you did. ;-)

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