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Belgian Fries With That?

July 02, 2006|Paul Vercammen | Paul Vercammen is a former CNN correspondent.

Let's track the French fry's arrival in America. That grease trail, according to food encyclopedias, leads back to Thomas Jefferson, who reportedly snacked on thinly sliced deep-fried potatoes while in the White House in the early 1800s. And we all know what foreign country he'd been traipsing around in.

But prove to me the French fry is even French. If my people, the Belgians, didn't invent fries, they certainly took raw potatoes, sliced them up and made deep-fried masterpieces. The smell of my Belgian mom's fries sizzling in the kitchen still wakes napping children and lazy dogs. And unlike your basic fast-food-clone fries, these Belgian beauties are wonderfully asymmetrical, cut by hand into odd shapes and sizes, including the crispy little brown runts I adore.

A golden fry moment came to me while on vacation in Belgium, at the Ghent vs. Genk soccer game on a toe-numbing fall night. My cousin asked me if I wanted a "schnack." Ives presented me with a bouquet of fries, a paper cone serving as the vase. I dunked my fries in a mound of mayonnaise, and the taste sensation thawed me from the inside out.

If you can't escape work next week to fly to Belgium, here are three local shrines for fry fanatics.


In-N-Out Burger: So fresh you see employees dice up uber-potatoes, then plunge them in cottonseed oil.

Pink's Hot Dogs: The fries are super absorbent, critical to soaking up the yummy refuse that spills off your chili-cheese dog.

Mid Valley Youth Baseball snack bars: Lip-licking crinkle-cut fries boosted by a red-tinted seasoning salt, the ultimate comfort food whether it's a win or a loss.

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