The all-American burger has for quite a long time been paired with French fries. However, the history of the latter as the gold standard of side dishes goes much back in time than that of burgers. French fries are now also paired with sandwiches, pizza and even fried chicken. Despite of this, you will be forgiven to wonder just how this state affairs came into been.
Well, the phenomenon rise of golden fried potatoes wedges can be traced to France, many centuries ago. The remarkable thing in all this is at first potatoes were universally regarded as inedible. Before the 18th century they were known by the epithet of edible rocks, and considered as emergency supplies in times of dire want. Otherwise they were deemed to be only good feed for hogs. This all changed with the intervention of a Frenchman, Antoine Augustin Parmentier.
This man was captured and incarcerated by the Prussians during the famous seven years war. During his long stint in prison, Antoine was fed with potatoes until he began to seriously relish them. On return to his homeland in 1763, he enthusiastically lauded them, but no one really seemed to care. Not been one to lose heart, he commenced an intricate and brilliant marketing campaign that involved pitching them to French royalty and nobility. He also allowed the lower classes to steal potatoes from his farm. By 1788, with the intervention of 2 severe famines, potatoes began to be grown in virtually all of Europe.
Nevertheless, the whole concept of slicing potatoes into thin wedges and then deep frying them is even today shrouded in mystery. One thing remains crystal clear though , which is that this street snack went on to gain a lot of popularity by the beginning of the 20th century. When US soldiers returned home after WW1 they couldn’t get enough of it.
At this particular juncture of time, America was ushering the birth of fast food joints. White Castle started to offer the all America burger with cola in 1916, and went on to be the very first of its kind to introduce French fries as a side dish to this meal. Thirty years later, the McDonald brothers opened a burger joint that was quicker, efficient and much cleaner than previous fast food eateries. They also introduced fries as the main side dish to the all American burger in their restaurants.
When it comes to just why French fries became the side dish of choice, the answer is simply timing. When the pioneer fast food chains were fledging, the burger was also making steady inroads to gaining popularity. Restaurant class food began to be readily accessible to many people for the very first time. The early entrepreneurs were fully aware of this, and constantly looked for feasible means to minimize costs to appeal to low income individuals.
Potatoes were cheap and could be stored for protracted periods of time. Deep frying was also challenging to conduct at homes, which meant people had to patronize these joints to get French fries. This in extension, meant eating while standing as most of these establishments didn’t have seating facilities. Therefore, menu items had to be portable and convenient to eat on the go, and French fries effortlessly fit this bill.