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Lucky Belgians urged to double their French fry intake

Illustration for article titled Lucky Belgians urged to double their French fry intake
Photo: Britany George (Getty Images)

Frites are as important to Belgium as McNuggets are to America. After all, the Belgians reportedly invented “French” fries over 200 years ago—a story that is chronicled in the country’s official Frietmuseum. Belgium ranks 17th in global potato production; 2018 was a banner year for the industry, with a record harvest of over 3 billion kilograms of spuds. Belgium’s coronavirus lockdown began in mid-March, and with all of its restaurants closed, farmers now have a surplus of over 750,000 tons of potatoes. For scale, that’s about the weight of close to 150,000 elephants, which, even if they were having a really bad day, would probably not be able to eat 750,000 tons of potatoes. And as elephants aren’t exactly plentiful in Belgium, the potato industry is asking citizens to pick up the slack.

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While restaurants are closed, the country’s iconic frites shops remain open as they are normally takeout-only operations, but sales have significantly slumped as people are remaining in their homes. According to The Brussels Times, residents are now being urged to double their potato intake by going out for frites at least twice a week to help reduce the surplus, generate revenue for farmers, and keep those frites shops they so depend on open. In addition, Belgapom, the country’s potato trade organization, has announced a weekly donation of 25 tons of potatoes to Belgium’s central food bank in Grimbergen that will then be sent to 460 distribution points around the country.

“In this way, part of the potato stock will still be used and we can avoid seeing excellent food, for which our farmers have worked so hard, being lost,” said Flemish agriculture minister Hilde Crevits. “Families in poverty will be supplied with fresh, local potatoes every week. A positive action in difficult times.” (If you find yourself with too many potatoes, we recommend tartiflette.)

Allison Robicelli is The Takeout staff writer, a former professional chef, author of three books, and The People's Hot Pocket Princess. Questions about recipes/need cooking advice? Tweet @Robicellis.

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DISCUSSION

hendenburg3
Cayde-6's Unloaded Dice

Belgians probably did NOT invent french fries, since:

1) The person who claimed that the Belgians invented french fries says that a manuscript written in 1781 proves that deep-fried potato batons were being made in a region of Belgium called the Meuse valley before 1680. No one else has ever seen this manuscript.
2) The people who he claimed deep-friend potato slices were poor fishermen who would never have been able to afford enough oil to deep-fry anything.
3) French-cut potatoes could not have been fried in the Meuse valley prior to 1680, because there were no potatoes in the Meuse valley until 1735.
4) The French were the first people to popularize potatoes for eating. Beforehand, many people were wary of them because they are related to Nightshades. A physician named Antoine-Augustin Parmentier made them popular by planting a bunch of potatoes, then paying guards to stand around them to make people think they were worth stealing. The first KNOWN reference to fried potatoes was written in 1775, and was in France.


My personal theory, which I support for literally no reason whatsoever, was proposed a Belgian professor and the curator of the Freitmuseum (literally, a museum dedicated to potatoes and french fries) in Bruges : that it was Saint Theresa of Avila who invent the french fry. That said, they would have been sweet potato fries, since Spain didn’t start importing white potatoes for another 50 years