July 13th is National French Fries Day and we’re here to celebrate. While this is a little known (and unofficial) holiday, there is absolutely nothing ‘little known’ about French Fries, a much-loved global treat. From ‘pommes frites’ in France and ‘patatas fritas’ in Spain to ‘chips’ in the UK, French Fries are an institution almost everywhere.
So why are we celebrating French Fries–one of the most notorious ‘junk’ foods on the planet–on a blog devoted to health and plant-based living? Simply because I don’t believe French Fries have to be unhealthy. Prepared properly, potatoes can be delicious and wholesome.
But before we reveal how to prepare a healthful version of French Fries, let’s first talk about their past.
It All Started With the Potato
The history of French Fries is really the history of the potato. For thousands of years, potatoes were kept a well-guarded secret by the Incas who lived in South America. The Andean Incas, who discovered potatoes growing wild in the highlands, started cultivating the odd looking root vegetables as early as 750 B.C. Their most popular (if rather odd) way of preparing potatoes was to lay them out in the sun for weeks and then trample on them with their bare feet to get the liquids out (i.e. a far cry from modern day French Fries!).
Years later, in the 16th century, potatoes were introduced to Europe by the Spanish who discovered them in present-day Colombia, having mistaken them for truffles.
French Fries: A Substitute for Fish?
While the origin of French Fries is still debated, the most popular theory is that the tradition was born in 17th century Belgium. According to Belgian lore, poor villagers who lived in the Meuse Valley would often dine on the small fried fish they caught in the river. During the winter months, the river would freeze over however, making it impossible to fish. The villagers would improvise by substituting potatoes for fish. They would cut up the root plant in long, thin strips (to resemble the fish) and then fry them much in the same way they prepared the fish in warmer months.
Why French Fries Are Called French Fries?
There are two theories about the origin of the name. The first theory is that American soldiers stationed in Belgium during World War I were introduced to the long thin fried potatoes. Since French was the official language of the Belgian army, the soldiers nicknamed the potatoes ‘French Fries’ and the name simply stuck.
The second theory is that the word ‘French’ actually comes from the verb ‘frenching’ defined as cutting into long thin pieces.
What is clear is that, despite the fact the French has given the world the hot air balloon, the sewing machine, the Statue of Liberty and the bikini, they very likely did not give us their namesake—the French Fry!
Here is a quick 1 ½ minute video which summarizes the history of French Fries.
From the Past to Perfect Potato Preparation
So now let’s turn to the most important question—can you really prepare French Fries that are both healthful and delicious? The answer of course is ABSOLUTELY. Earlier this year, we gave you some tips on crispy potato preparation without oil.
Today, we are sharing with you an exclusive recipe for Wholesome Power Wedges. In the recipe, we reveal the secret to making the crunchiest, most delicious French Fries around (all without a single drop of oil!). I promise that once you try this delightful recipe, you will never go back to disgusting ‘junk food’ French Fries ever again. Enjoy!