Who invented the chip? The issue is hotly contested and it is said to be one of the biggest mysteries in the development of European cuisine, if not European culture. Both the French and the Belgians claim to be the true chip inventors and a great deal of national pride is involved.
The French call the chip the “frite” or “pommes frites” and claim that its invention followed shortly after the French Revolution in the late eighteenth century. The first frites, they say, were made by Parisian merchants who sold then from stalls on the Pont Neuf.
But the Belgians claim prior art. They say that that the chip, which they call the “frieten”, dates back to the seventeenth century and that it was created more by accident than design. The story goes that it was fisherman who fished the river Meuse who made the first chips. It is claimed that a manuscript dated 1781 tells how the first chips were made before 1680.
It was usual for peasant fishermen to fish for small fish in the river Meuse and fry them, but when the river froze over and the fishing boats were unable to take to the water, the hungry fishermen sculptured small fish from potatoes and fried those instead.
Brusselicious is a food festival held in Brussels and at the latest meeting a number of French and Belgian historians, along with various food experts, gathered there with the intention of settling the issue finally. However they encountered a number of difficulties as there was a dearth of any real evidence either way; in particular the purported 1781 manuscript was not available. Unable to resolve the question, the matter is now being researched at the University of Liège.
The humble British chip is said to date back no further than the early nineteenth century. It is claimed that the first chips were made in Oldham in 1860 at the Tommy-field Market. But this was an altogether different dish from either the French of the Belgian versions. While French and Belgian frites and frieten are quite skinny, the original British Chip was far chunkier, even chunkier than the chip traditionally sold in today’s fish and chip shops.
If you are interested in comparing the quality of chips, frites and frieten, then there are buses to Paris directly from London which cost no more than standard coach travel UK, and from there you can catch another bus to Belgium; three bags of chips all in one day.
- License: Royalty Free or iStock source: http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/Fast_Food__TakeOut___g131-French_Fries_With_Ketchup_p77522.html
This is a guest post by Claire Chat a new Londoner, travel passionate and animal lover. She blogs about Pets and Travelling in Europe. If you want Claire to write you specific content, you can find email her here or contact her on Twitter (Claire_Chat).