The Belgian journalist Jo Gérard recounts that potatoes were fried in 1680 in the Spanish Netherlands, in the area of “the Meuse valley between Dinant and Liège.
The poor inhabitants of this region allegedly had the custom of accompanying their meals with small fried fish, but when the river was frozen and they were unable to fish, they cut potatoes lengthwise and fried them in oil to accompany their meals.”
Many Belgians believe that the term “French” was introduced when American soldiers arrived in Belgium during World War I, and consequently tasted Belgian fries.They supposedly called them “French”, as it was the official language of the Belgian Army at that time.
“Les frites” (French) or “Frieten” (Dutch) became the national snack and a substantial part of several national dishes. They are called frieten in Dutch and frites in French. However, unlike the 6–10 mm thick “French fries” (known as pommes allumettes (French: matchstick potatoes) in Belgium) which are normally served in American fast-food restaurants, Belgian fries are more substantial (12–15 mm thick) and are typically fried in animal fat. One of the best places to enjoy them is at one of the often temporary or mobile establishments known in French as a friterie, in Dutch as a frituur or, more informally, a frietkot. These are typically to be found strategically placed in town squares or alongside busy highways.