Let’s not beat around the bush: When you think of fries, you think of FRENCH fries.
Belgium isn’t really okay with that, so the country is launching a bid to have potato fries recognized as a part of its cultural heritage.
Belgians now want the item officially endorsed by the United Nations’ Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) as its own.
If the country’s petition is successful, that would put Belgian fries on par with Turkish coffee, the Tower of London, the Grand Canyon—all of these are also “items of intangible cultural heritage worthy of preservation.”
Potatoes came to Belgium in the 16th century, but it wasn’t until the 19th century that they were widely sold cut up and fried as a meal in themselves. Now, 95% of Belgians visit a fritkot (Belgian fry stand) at least once a year.
UNAFRI, the national association of fritkot owners, is leading the petition. The organization told Reuters that the “unpolished establishments are uniquely Belgian, combining the country’s embrace of chaos with a dislike of corporate uniformity.”
About Belgian fries, one fritkot owner tells Reuters, “It’s a good product, but it’s also a way of living—a Belgiatude.”
A country (or region) trying to protect its culinary heritage is nothing new. Washoku (traditional Japanese cuisine) was designated as a UNESCO intangible cultural heritage item. Similarly, only pasties prepared in Cornwall, that follow the agreed and traditional recipe can be labelled “Cornish.”