The French gave the world the hot air balloon, the sewing machine and the bikini. They even gave the United States the Statue of Liberty. However, one thing the French cannot claim is the french fry.

Despite its name, the french fry is not French. The origins of the french fry have been traced back to Belgium, where historians claim potatoes were being fried in the late-1600s.

According to local Belgian lore, poor villagers living in Meuse Valley often ate small fried fish they caught in the river. During the winter months the river would freeze over — making fishing impossible and forcing the villagers to find other sources of food.

Enter the potato. The villagers turned to the root plant, slicing and frying it much in the same way they prepared the fish. And just like that, the earliest french fries were born.

American soldiers stationed in Belgium were first introduced to french fries during World War I.  As the official language of the Belgian army was French, soldiers nicknamed the delicious fried potatoes “french fries.” The name stuck, and decades later we’re still giving credit to the wrong country.

French fries are one of the most popular side dishes in the world. When it comes to dipping, fries often find themselves covered in ketchup, mayonnaise or vinegar, but that seems to be where the universal preference ends.

In Belgium, people prefer to eat French fries with cooked mussels or with a fried egg on top. The United Kingdom is famous for its “fish and chips.” In the Middle East, fries are wrapped in pita bread with chicken, and in France they are served with grilled steak.


24 Join the Discussion

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  1. I thought that french fries were an American snack! I found it interesting that soldiers in World War I ate french fries. Learn something new every day!

    • Here in Wonderopolis, we really DO learn something new every day, Bubble! Thank you so much for hanging out with us today and for letting us know you learned a new fact about french fries! :-)

    • Bonjour, Sarah! We are so excited that you enjoyed learning about the origin of french fries– it’s making us hungry here at Wonderopolis! Have a SUPER day! :)

    • Welcome to Wonderopolis, Kyle! We are so glad to gain a new Wonder Friend! :) There is so much to explore here and we’re glad to hear you learned something fun about french fries! The name is certainly confusing, but we still love those delicious potatoes! :)

    • Hey there, Olive Y! We’re glad this Wonder made you smile… and made your stomach growl! Thanks for WONDERing about your favorite food with us! :)

  2. One of the biggest question of my life. Solved! Thank you! But I’m still wondering why McDonald’s fries do not decompose after days or even months. I’m not even sure if it’s just a myth or it’s real.

    • HOORAY, Wonder Friend Ghost Hee! We are so glad you learned all about those tasty potatoes with us today! We hope you’ll keep WONDERing about french fries, food, and other awesome topics. We can’t wait to Wonder with you again! :)

  3. Ok, Why don’t we all stop saying FRENCH FRIES if its clearly not French.. so from now on please call them Belgian Fries or just Fries!! Grtz from Belgium.

    • Thanks for sharing your thought about our Wonder, Kenny! We are glad you’ve been thinking of alternative names for those delicious potatoes! Keep using your WONDERful imagination! Perhaps you’ll come up with an entirely new name for fries! :)

    • Thanks for your question, KC! Since this was one of our older Wonders, we need to search our archives for this information. We’ll be in touch shortly. Thanks! :-)

    • Wow! Great find, Frenchie! We will definitely take a second look at this Wonder and revise it. Thanks, again! :-)

  4. I never didn’t care where the french fries came from till I had to do a how-to report and I decided to do it on french fries cuz I love them, I leaned a lot from this site, thank you!!!

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Have you ever wondered…

  • Are french fries really French?
  • Does everyone eat french fries with ketchup?
  • Can french fries help improve your math skills?

Wonder Gallery

Try It Out

French fries are a fun way for visual learners to master the basics of addition and subtraction. Collect a few old french fry containers and label each box with number 1 through 10.

Slice a yellow sponge into fry-like strips. These will become your “fun fries.” Have your child fill each container with the appropriate number of fries. Then it’s time to place an order!

Create new combinations of fry orders that require your child to merge boxes (for example, if you want an order of 12 fries, they would need to combine the 10 and 2 box or an 8 and 4 box).

For slightly more advanced learners, you can also assign each box a monetary value to help your child practice making change. Any way you order them up, fun fries are a great way to make math a more tactile experience for beginning learners.


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Wonder What’s Next?

Belgium may have bragging rights when it comes to the french fry, but tomorrow Wonderopolis will introduce you to a pastime that’s all American.

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