If you’ve ever sat down at a restaurant or modern eatery, you’ve likely encountered the famous burger and fries– a natural pairing if we ever saw one.
Whether you’re ordering the best burger in NYC or a Juicy Lucy in Chicago, it’s not uncommon for your burger to come with a side of golden seasoned fries. So how did fries become burger’s BFF?
Burgers have been served with fries for some time now. Yes, they are also served frequently with a number of main meals at diners and restaurants. But the classic American burger and fries combo is one for the ages– as American as apple pie.
French fries are commonly believed to have started in France, but there is evidence that the Belgians have been cooking them up since the 17th & 18th century! Believe it or not, at this time the potato was not very popular in global cuisine. Actually, it was barely present at all. In the eighteenth century and earlier, people considered potatoes to be edible rocks. They were the backup plan, the food that you could store and turn to only when you were desperate. Other than that, this now-popular tuber was really considered only useful for fattening up pigs and hogs, not people!
However, Antoine Augustin Parmentier changed all of that! Antoine was captured during the Seven Years’ War by the Prussians and put into prison. He was given potatoes frequently there– but the thing was, he actually started to really enjoy them. By the time Parmentier was back in his homeland in 1763, he was a potato convert.
When his zeal for the tuber did not catch on, he lauded their taste to French royalty and the nobility. He let people even take potatoes from his farm and turned a blind eye. With the help of the lower classes, potatoes became a popular crop for many. Along the way, French fries and potato chips were invented, along with a number of other dishes that utilized the easy to grow potato.
Perhaps the U.S. was primed to put the two together. White Castle offered their customers a burger with Coca-Cola– but eventually added French fries in as a compliment to the meal. When the McDonald brothers opened McDonald’s, they too put the french fry right next to their burger. It seemed the natural compliment, a modern ‘protein and vegetable’ combination pairing. The burger filled you up, and the French fries were a fun snack to have alongside them.
So it became a matter of timing that the French fry joined the burger on the fast food menu. Burger joints were becoming more and more popular, and many Americans lacked the equipment to fry French fries themselves in their home. So they came to places like McDonald’s and Wendy’s to have these salty fried slices of potato, a special treat. These potato dishes were not only delicious, but they were portable as well and worked when on the go. It was a natural pairing to the burger and an incentive to come in.
The fry has long accompanied the burger, but today you can switch it out for sweet potato fries, waffle fries, onion rings, et cetera at many places. Loaded fries have also become popular, and a dish in their own right– fries smothered with ingredients. They are becoming stars on their own, but we will never forget that it is the classic side accompaniment to the classic American burger. Long may it live!