by Mr. Lew, Burger Expert for the Menuism Burger Blog Photo by Scott Ableman Hamburgers and French fries go hand in hand. When one thinks of a burger, the side dish that almost automatically goes alongside is the chopped potato deep-fried to a golden crisp. July 13 was even designated National French Fry Day! Origin of French Fries While we are not 100% sure on the exact origin of the potato, some signs point as far back as 1537. In that year, the Spanish set sail for present-day Columbia, where they mistook potatoes for truffles. The potato was brought back to Spain and also introduced to Italy, where it was cultivated over time to agree with the local palette. The word potato comes from the Haitian word batata, which refers to a variety of sweet potatoes. The word came into Spanish as patata. When the later variants (called papas by the natives) were found, they were also called patata, and the word made its way into English as potato. Spud, the slang term for potatoes, derives from the spade-like tool used to dig potatoes out of the ground. Many accounts and versions of how the actual French fry started are still being debated to this day, though it is interesting to note that Spain had control of Belgium at that time, and Belgium is often credited with making the first French fries. In Belgium's Meuse Valley between Dinant and Liège, it was very common for the people to fry up small fish for their meals. When the rivers froze up, they would cut up potatoes in long thin slices, and fry them up as they did the fish. Potatoes served in the French manner were on the menu at the White House as early as 1802. Even though it wasn't exactly what we know now, items that were deep fried came to be known as French fried. In cooking, the definition of 'frenching' is to cut into long, thin pieces. Another point of debate is which term, 'French fried' or 'frenching,' came first. The Link to Hamburgers No one really knows how the French fry became linked with the hamburger. One can only surmise that the emergence of fast food chains like McDonald's and Burger Kings did a lot to help solidify this combination. Along with a soft drink, the classic fast food trio was born. Varieties of French Fries McDonald's offers the shoestring variety, a thin, straight-cut French fry. Others, such as KFC, offer fries that are thicker, longer, and usually still have the skin on. This variety goes under the names potato wedges, chips, or steak fries. Another variation is waffle fries, which are cut into a criss cross pattern.