Whether you’re in the fast food drive-through, at a restaurant, on the search for the best burger in NYC, or at a local burger joint, you can’t deny that fries are THE side for burgers. Unless you’re in a certain region or country where it’s done differently, the odds are that you can order a burger and usually be asked if you would like a side of fries with it.
Beyond that, you have a choice of fries– straight, wedge, steak cut, shoestring, curly, sweet potato, waffle, and more. So when exactly did French fries get locked down as the default side of the burger? We’ve got the 411 on these crispy sides, so read on to find out more.
Burger and fries: this classic American combo is now a global phenomenon enjoyed by millions every day. So how did the fry and burger combination come to be?
Even though French fries have ‘French’ in their name, there’s good evidence that they actually originated in Belgium. Belgians have been cooking French fries since at least the seventeenth century. Unlike today, the potato was not a staple part of the diet for global cuisine, let alone Belgians. They were considered to be the second rate and were stored as a backup plan– the food that you turned to when you had nothing left. It was more like food for the hogs and pigs instead of people at the time.
But sometimes all it takes is one person to provide the spark that turns into a flame. That person was Antoine Augustin Parmentier, captured by the Prussians and sent to prison during the Seven Years’ War, where he ate and grew to love potatoes. He came home and was all about the potato. From his return on in 1763, Parmentier was lauding the potato to everyone.
He gradually took his case to the nobility and the French royalty, who determined what was popular at the time. He also gave away potatoes from his farm and the lower classes cultivated them. With the entrance and growing popularity of the potato, and aided by how easy it was to grow, French fries and potato chips eventually were invented along the way.
The rise of a demand for fast food in the United States as well as the uprising of McDonald’s and other places that focused on the hamburger meant that the burger hit prime prominence in the fifties and sixties. All of a sudden, Americans could have their burger in a few minutes and then simply clean up by throwing the wrapper away.
The menus started off simple, with milkshakes, burgers, and fries offered. But they gradually expanded, as did the franchises of other eateries like White Castle. It was a brilliant variation on the concept of meat and potatoes.
Plus, the light nature of the tuber meant it was a quick cook that was difficult to mess up in those frying baskets with those timers, and potatoes were also affordable and downright cheap bought in bulk. Whether cut fresh or stored frozen, they were the ultimate carb compliment to a protein-based meal. The salt, of course, encouraged the purchase of a drink to accompany it.
Plus, the popularity of the French fry among Americans equaled sales. They’re also easy to eat, to dip, and to share. Plus, it was already a frequently-cooked side in America. Everything about it just worked, and the rest is history.