Fries may be devoured around the world, but only Belgians elevate the golden fingers of deep fried potato to the status of national treasure.
“It’s part of our history, our gastronomy, our culture in the widest sense of the word,” says Hugues Henry, a leading expert on the topic, at the launch of a month-long celebration of the humble fry.
The author of a lavishly illustrated book about Belgian fry culture, Henry is director of aBrussels fries museum. “It’s about much more than just eating,” he explains. “Fries are deeply rooted in the Belgian mentality. Everybody grew up with a fries-stand on the corner of the street or in the town square.”
The Belgian capital is honoring its traditional fritkots — street stands whose paper cones of hot fries topped with mayo are to Brussels what pizzas are to Naples — at the climax of a year-long gastronomic festival named Brusselicious.
Tourists arriving at Brussels airport and the city’s international rail terminal throughout November will be handed a pink cardboard cone they’ll be able to fill with fries at 17 fritkots around the capital for just $1.30.
For hearty appetites, the tourist board has laid out a walking tour linking a dozen of the best-known fritkots across the city.
There will be a vote for the best fries — the winning fritkot gets a sculpture of a giant cone of fries — and on Dec. 13 a night of debates on the history of frites.