French fries are, in my opinion, the greatest food America has imported—give or take pizza, though in typical American fashion we've found ways to combine them. Few things compare to the salty goodness of a plate of fried potatoes. However, there's a little controversy on where fries actually came from. I researched and came across three different, plausible theories: France, Spain, or Belgium. So, you might be asking: where were French fries invented? And the answer is...

Theory 1: France

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Denise Uy

Since they're called "French" fries, you'd think the answer is obvious—French fries come from France. And there is a lot of information supporting this theory. According National Geographic, French vendors in the 18th century were prone to selling fries on the street, specifically in Pont Neuf in Paris. They also sold water chestnuts, potato rissole, and other deep fried foods, according to French historian Madeleine Ferriere. Ferriere also claims that the reason it's so difficult to tell where fries were invented is because they were a symbol of low birth and poverty (rude). 

There are two main theories as to why Americans think fries are French. Apparently, when Thomas Jefferson, our French ambassador, returned from overseas, he requested that his chef make "potatoes, fried in the French manner". His name for them was actually pommes de terre frites à cru en petites tranches, which translates to "potatoes deep-fried while raw, in small cuttings."

Another explanation: when American soldiers were in Belgium during WWI, they saw soldiers eating fries. Since French is the predominant language of Belgium, they assumed the fries were French, and brought that assumption back to America with them.

Theory 2: Belgium

In general, the Belgian people have a lot more pride in fries than their French homies. Actually, Belgium is home to the world's first—and only—fry museum. Belgians also treat their fries as a stand-alone meal, as opposed to a side dish (I can confirm from my own experience in Brussels). 

The story goes that villagers along the River Meuse in Belgium, who predominantly ate fish, would fry up potatoes during the winter. This was because the river would freeze over during the cold months. Since they missed their fish, they'd cut and cook potatoes the same way.

Theory 3: Spain

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Chelsea Hawk

Though less popular than the previous theories, there's a solid argument for renaming them to Spanish fries. Spanish explorers are actually responsible for bringing potatoes to Europe in the first place.

A Spanish explorer described potatoes in a journal entry dating back to 1577 as "a kind of earth nut which, after it is boiled, is as tender as cooked chestnuts." It was pretty typical at the time in Spanish tradition to fry basically anything, so fries definitely could have been on the menu back in the 16th century.

Apparently, fries were first served in Galicia (an autonomous area of northwest Spain), and eventually made their way up to Belgium. Belgium, at the time, was called the Spanish Netherlands. So fries became popular in Belgium because the tradition moved through Spanish communities.

In my opinion, even if French fries were invented on the Moon, there's no way we're ever getting the phrase "French fries" out of our vocabulary. But I'm going to have to give this one to Belgium (get #FrenchFriesAreFake trending please). Over 90% of Belgians will stop at a fry stand at least once a year. It's essentially their country's mascot and they have a MUSEUM dedicated to them (truly the respect that fries deserve).

So, if you're still wondering, "where were French fries invented?" keep these theories in mind before you guess France.