French Fries: The World Tour

image courtesy of YTV Canada

French fries are not the enemy.

We celebrate the pig in all its glory, topping everything that doesn’t move with bacon and salivating over unctuous pork bellies. Cupcake bakeries continue to proliferate even as we place bets on the next dessert craze (whoopie pies? macarons? those odd little cake balls that suddenly seem to be everywhere?)

Why are french fries the nutritionists’ whipping boy?

Yes, they are made from high-glycemic, low fiber white potatoes. Yes, they are high in fat and sodium. No, they do not belong on the lunch trays of our school’s cafeterias. But enough with the demonizing.

The real problem is the ubiquity of french fries. Back when we had to wash, peel, slice, deep fry, and clean up the mess ourselves, french fries didn’t stand a chance of becoming America’s favorite ‘vegetable’. Return them to special occasion status. Your mother was right all along: everything in moderation.

Today we honor this much-maligned treat with a look at french fry variations around the world.

  • Albania Albanians eat their patatis lukewarm in a puddle of congealed grease. Albania only comes first only alphabetically.
  • Australia French fries, aka chips, are usually eaten with ketchup (known as tomato sauce), gravy, barbecue sauce, or vinegar. Most restaurants offer a choice of regular table salt and a seasoned but poultry-less blend known as chicken salt. Between neighborhood chip shops and french fry vending machines (fried to order in 90 seconds), Australia is plagued by American-style overload.
  • Belgium Ahh, the mother ship, creator of the french fry, known here as frites, and the country with the most deeply ingrained fry culture. Frites stands, stalls, and trucks blanket the country dispensing freshly fried potatoes in paper cones. When it comes to condiments, mayonnaise rules.
  • Bulgaria They call their french fries persiski kartofi (persian potatoes) and like them gaggingly salty.
  • Canada Let’s talk about that poutine. Fries are topped with cheese curds and brown gravy; perhaps its popularity can be attributed to poutine’s ability to set Canadians apart from the rest of us North American’s. It is otherwise inexplicable.
  • France (and Germany, Italy, Scandinavia, Spain, and most of the rest of Europe) They eat their frites pretty much as we do: thin and crispy with salt and sometimes ketchup.
  • Mexico Lemon juice and hot sauce, singly or in combination, beats out ketchup.
  • Namibia Namibians call their french fries slap chips. No one seems to know why.
  • Poland When it comes to their frytki, it’s all about the garlic: Poles top their potatoes with garlic cream, garlic sauce, and minced beef with garlic.
  • United Kingdom The Brits do love their chips, usually with salt and malt vinegar and a few newspaper-wrapped slabs of fried fish.
  • United States Regional variations abound: gravy fries, thick-cut steak fries, cheese fries, chili fries, curly fries; in Utah the fries come with a Russian dressing-like fry sauce; Minnesotans like to dip theirs in sour cream; Oregon fries come with Miracle Whip; and mid-Atlantic states will serve boardwalk fries with Old Bay seasoning.

Let’s celebrate the wondrous treat that is the french fry. Sparingly. And be thankful that we don’t live in Albania.

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5 Responses to French Fries: The World Tour

  1. Janice says:

    It has been showing up more and more on this side of the border, but it’s a tough sell with the growth of fat and sodium labeling.

  2. Dana says:

    Poutine shout out from Canada!

    It’s so good, and I always forget that the rest of the world doesn’t seem to eat it. I’ve definitely gotten some funny looks in restaurants.

    “What is a poutine?”

    Bliss, I tell those of you who haven’t experienced it, cheesy gravy-y bliss!

  3. I like mine fat and crusty with tangy mayo!

  4. Lora says:

    Here in our part of Germany (NRW) “pommes” are eaten with mayo and/or ketchup. The “spezial” is especially populat..mayo, ketchup with chopped onions on tip.

  5. Michael says:

    Thank you for placing frites frmo Belgium (or “frietjes” we might add) at the top of the heap!

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