Belgium is known as the promised land of fries, and there, they’re traditionally served in a paper cone with a generous dollop of mayonnaise on top. I’m not getting into the debate over who invented fries (France or Belgium), or what topping is the best, because I don’t want to end up on a hit list. But there is something cooking over in Belgium, where Belgians are currently taking their love for fries to the next level. There’s currently a petition making the rounds in Belgium that wants to add fries to the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List, because, I don’t know, fries are good?
The UNESCO list, currently composed of over 400 elements, already includes various foods and traditions from all over the world such as Turkish flatbread, Austrian horsemanship, and Chinese shadow puppetry. Kimchi’s on there too, obviously. And Belgium’s beer culture is already on there already, so, honestly, why not fries?
The goal of the petition is simple: emphasising the dual jewels of Belgian culinary know-how, which are fries and mayonnaise. The reason the petition’s gaining steam now, however, is somewhat surprising: soccer. Wait, what? “It’s like the World Cup of taste. We’re from a small country, but our strikers ‘fries and mayo’ are doing really well. We are ready to go all the way,” says Arthus de Bousies, managing director of Natura, a Belgian mayonnaise producer behind the petition. Um, sure.
According to Navefri-Unafri, a Belgian trade association looking after the interest of the Frietkoten (traditional fry stands, and yes, they have their own trade association) there are approximately 4643 kiosks in Belgium dedicated to fries, which given Belgium’s population works out to about one fry joint per 2500 people (and that’s not counting the many and various other places one could get one’s fill of fries). That is some serious devotion to fries for a relatively small country.
And it’s not the first time that Belgians have tried to add fries to UNESCO’s list. It’s been on the agenda for a couple of years now among the Frietkoten, but it’s never quite gained enough traction. But frankly, it's time the world acknowledged that fries are not just a side dish. Potatoes and our God-given ability to deep fry stuff are the unwavering cornerstone of all things awesome. So, if anyone from UNESCO is reading this, just give frietkot culture a chance! And then let’s all meet in Belgium and have a big party where fries fill the streets and mayo rains down from the sky.