Bintje potatoes for sale in Brussels, Belgium (2011)
Did fries originate in Belgium or France? That’s an argument I wouldn’t get in the middle of. While it would be difficult to avoid French while visiting Brussels (even the street names are both in Dutch and French) calling fries French would be high on a list of things not to do. Yes you can get your frietjes (Dutch word) at any number of friteries (French word), but when in Belgium call them as the Belgians do. You may speak English, but do you eat bangers and mash or sausage and mashed potatoes? I guess it depends on what kind of English you speak. One thing’s for sure, when people feel they have a claim to the origin of something the debate can get heated – sometimes to the point of no return. Some dishes are so beloved that even the slightest deviation from the recipe someone grew up with can inspire outrage, even if the dish itself was born in another place entirely. Fried potatoes exist all over the world, but there is little agreement on the best way to cook them or which potato is best for what. These local bintje potatoes were still covered with soil at a tiny shop in a square known as Bloemenhofplein in Dutch or as Place du Jardin aux Fleurs in French (both roughly translating as Flower Garden Plaza). In Belgium (and France), the bintje potato is the most highly prized for making fries.
So, if you’ve never had a fry made from a bintje potato… have you ever really had a fry?