Can you imagine a diner menu that doesn’t include French fries? No hamburger is complete without the golden, crunchy sticks on the side. French fries can take center plate when loaded with chili, cheese, bacon, and a multitude of other toppings.

While French fries are forever entwined with American cuisine, as the name states, they did not originate in this country. Although it was the Spanish who brought potatoes to Europe in the 1550s from the New World, it is generally accepted that the method of frying them, or pommes frites, originated in Belgium. In 1802 Thomas Jefferson had them served at a White House dinner, calling the dish “potatoes served in the French manner.” It is believed that the term French fries was popularized after American soldiers tasted the crispy potatoes in Belgium, where the army spoke French.

The J. R. Simplot Company is credited with commercializing frozen French fries in the 1940s. This was a turning point for the humble fry as the product made it easy and for restaurants across the country to bring the dish to the masses.

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