French fries are widely popular side items in restaurants and for many home cooks. They are also famous for myths and legends, which make them misunderstood.
Many myths surround french fries such as they were invented in France and that they cause acne. Fries are thought to be as healthy as regular potatoes, while British chips and American fries are the same things.
If you’re confused about french fries and want to sort myth from truth, keep reading.
1. French Fries Were Invented in France.
A lot of people assume that french fries were either invented in France or the United States. But they are wrong with both countries. French fries were invented in Belgium as early as the 17th century.
The story goes that Belgians loved fried fish, but weren’t able to catch fish in the winter in the frozen lakes. Since they missed their fish, they made substitutes with thin strips of fried potatoes. However, the French insist that french fries are from France, because a prisoner of war turned prison potatoes into fried potatoes. No one seems to know exactly who invented french fries.
2. British Chips and American Fries Are the Same Things.
It’s assumed that because the British name for fries happens to be “chips,” that British chips and American fries refer to the same food. While technically this is true, British chips are thicker and flatter than American fries. In many English-speaking countries, thinner potato cuts are referred to fries, while thicker potato cuts are chips.
3. Fast Food French Fries Are Healthy in Moderation.
Many people claim that fast-food fries are healthy in moderation. However, most of them are heated past the healthy point when frying, which increases acrylamide, a neurotoxin responsible for cancer and other illnesses. Pregnant women are even told to avoid fried foods to prevent passing this toxin to the unborn baby.
4. Fries Are As Healthy as Potatoes.
Potatoes can be healthy when in the whole state, but when cut and fried, they become less healthy. French fries made for fast-food restaurants are coated in dextrose and other preservatives that change the fries’ nutritional content. When eaten in their whole state, potatoes can be healthy.
5. Acne Is Caused by Eating French Fries.
Many tales from the 1980s claimed that eating greasy fried foods and chocolate caused acne. If teenagers wanted to clear up their faces from acne, they were advised to stay away from chocolate and fatty foods, like french fries.
However, there is no connection between acne flare-ups and eating french fries.
6. French Fries Cause Breast Cancer.
The myth that when preschool girls eat french fries, they develop breast cancer later in life is false. A study done in 2005 showed that when acrylamide was consumed in foods when children were little, it would lead to breast cancer when the girls grew up. However, a few years later, this was proven false with two large studies.
7. Fries Are Better and Healthier Without the Peelings.
Fries are often made without peelings in many restaurants and come without skins in frozen fries. Therefore, many people often assume that french fries are better without the peelings. However, aside from taste, fries are healthier when the peelings are left on, and they end up being crispier than fries without skins. The peelings contain most of the potatoes’ nutrition.
8. French Fries Make Good Leftovers.
French fries only make good leftovers when used in a potato casserole or other dishes made new. Otherwise, french fries don’t last long due to their greasy flavor when they get cold. Many fast-food restaurants usually throw out unsold fries after a certain amount of time because they get soggy; there’s no bringing them back.
9. The Name “French Fries” Came About During WWI.
It is said that fries got the “french” name added during WWI when French-speaking Belgian soldiers gave American soldiers fries. They thought that fries originated in France, so they called them “French Fries.”
However, several earlier cookbooks (70 years earlier) referred to the recipe, “French Fried Potatoes,” describing how french fries are made, which is exactly how they’re made today.
10. The First McDonald’s Menu Included French Fries.
Many people think that french fries were on the original McDonald’s menu, but this is not so. The original menu included potato chips rather than fries, and cost $.15 per serving. French fries were added to the menu in 1949 and have been a popular staple ever since.
11. Thomas Jefferson Brought French Fries to America.
It is said that Thomas Jefferson brought french fries to America on his trip back to the US from France after the Revolutionary war. When he returned, he wanted his servant to make the potatoes in the “French way,” which caught on with the entire population. That, they say, is how french fries came to America.
However, that story is not entirely accurate. Though Jefferson did bring several French recipes back with him, today’s french fries were not one of those recipes. Instead, Jefferson’s servant fried thin-sliced circles of potatoes much the same way scalloped potatoes or breakfast potatoes are made today.
12. Fast Food Fries Are Made With Potatoes Only.
While french fries are made from potatoes, not all restaurants serve french fries made just from potatoes. For instance, McDonald’s uses 19 ingredients to make their french fries, including dextrose and several types of preservatives.
Fine dining and other sit down restaurants may use only potatoes, but fast-food french fries are flash-frozen, which means they need some preservatives to keep them fresh until needed.
13. McDonald’s French Fries Are Vegan-Friendly.
Many people assume that McDonald’s french fries are friendly for vegans and vegetarians. Unfortunately for those who are vegans, french fries are not completely vegan. McDonald’s adds beef flavoring to the fries to make them taste like they did when McDonald’s used to use beef fat to fry the french fries.
14. Baked Fries Are Super Healthy.
While many people assume that homemade baked foods are healthier than fried foods, this may not always be true. Potatoes do have some nutrition, but there are more carbohydrates and starch in white potatoes than in other foods, and it doesn’t matter what cooking method is used, they are still less healthy than perhaps a regular homemade salad.
15. Fresh-Cut Fries Are More Expensive to Make Than Frozen Fries.
Often restaurants that sell fresh-cut french fries charge more per serving because of the perceived notion that they are more valuable and, therefore, more expensive than frozen fries. However, the cost of fresh-cut fries can be less to the restaurant than frozen fries. Yet, usually, customers pay more per serving than frozen.
All Things Considered
French fries are deep in myth and legend, so this article should clarify some misunderstandings.
For instance, potatoes were once seen as poisonous in France, as they were connected with leprosy. But once they realized this was not the case, they started slicing and frying them much the same way the Belgians were. Street vendors made them and called them “frites” while selling them in pushcarts.
Myths about fries, or “frites,” will always exist and confuse people. However, there is one fact that will forever remain–they are very popular and will continue to be so for years to come, regardless of the perceived health status.