All About the Fries )

4 years ago

potatoes were first introduced to Europe, not through the French or Belgians, but through the Spanish. In 1537, Jimenez de Quesada and his Spanish forces encountered a village in Columbia where all the natives had fled. Among other things, they found in the natives food stuffs potatoes, which the Spanish initially called truffles. Around 20 years later, potatoes were brought back to Spain and also introduced to Italy. At this time, the potatoes were still quite small and bitter and didnt grow well in either Spain or Italy. However, over time, larger and less bitter versions of the plant were cultivated and the plant gradually caught on elsewhere in Europe, though it was initially met with quite a bit of resistance (for more on that, see the factoids at the bottom).

In any event, historical accounts indicate that the Belgians were possibly frying up thin strips of potatoes as early as the late 17th century (though some claim it wasnt until the late 18th century) in the Meuse Valley between Dinant and Li├Ęge, in Belgium. How they supposedly came up with the idea was that, in this area, it was very common for the people to fry up small fish as a staple for their meals. However, when the rivers froze up thick enough, it tended to make it somewhat difficult to get fish. So instead of frying up fish in these times, they would cut up potatoes in long thin slices, and fry them up as they did the fish.

Giving some credence to this story is that the Spanish controlled much of what is now modern day Belgium at the time the Spanish introduced the potato to Europe. So, at least, the Belgians probably were among the first to have a crack at the potato, in terms of thinking up ways to prepare food from potatoes.

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