[FOUNTAIN]The French confection

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[FOUNTAIN]The French confection

French fries ― nothing more than sliced and fried potatoes ― are one of the most important menu items in modern fast food restaurants. There are several stories about the origin of the name. The most likely one is that the name “French fries” comes from “fried in the French manner” according to a recipe by Thomas Jefferson, who was known to have been keen on French cuisine.
There is debate that the term comes from “cut in the French manner,” though most doubt that. Some Germans even argue that the Americans changed the name from “German fries” during World War I due to American opposition to the Kaiser. However, this hypothesis is not very persuasive because German food is not that famous.
Spain and Belgium are the two most likely countries to have created the snack. Spain is said to have been the first country to have brought potatoes to Europe from the Inca Empire, and it also arguably developed the deep-frying technique. On the other hand, many Belgians argue that a Belgian cook living in Spain created what is now known as French fries. Setting aside the dispute, we can say that Belgium is the home of French fries, given how commonly the people there eat them (after dousing them with mayonnaise). The Belgian word frites, meaning fried potatoes, comes from “Frits,” the roadside stands that were the first in the world to sell fried potatoes, way back in 1681. This later became pommes frites, “fried potatoes,” when introduced in France.
For this reason, even French people say that French fries originated in Belgium.
In March 2003, the U.S. House of Representatives changed the name of French fries to “freedom fries” on the menu in the congressional cafeteria to show the congressmen’s anger at France for opposing the U.S. plan to invade Iraq. When the incident occurred, a spokesperson at the French Embassy in the United States replied that “French fries are actually Belgian.” The embassy officials said the U.S. representatives were misdirecting their anger.
Recently, the U.S. House of Representatives quietly changed the name on the menu back to French fries. Along with French fries, “French toast,” which was been renamed at the time, was given its original name back. It is unknown whether their act of changing the names back is aiming to improve America’s relationship with France or because they realized their misunderstanding about the national origin of the foods. The U.S. House of Representatives never did get around to changing the names of “French kissing” or “French dressing.”


by Kim Jong-soo

The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
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