No one can deny that the French pretty much take the prize when it comes to cooking and food. A culinary powerhouse, French cuisine is certainly haute cuisine to the max. But did you know a lot of the foods out there are French in name only? Say it ain’t so! Maybe that food you’ve always thought of as French has more dubious origins. In honor of Bastille Day (it’s July 14!), let’s take a look at some of our favorite French food posers.
1. FRENCH FRIES
Let’s start with the most obvious favorite American “French” food French fries! France and Belgium may both lay claim as the originators of fries, but it’s looking like Belgium may be the winner. The story goes that poor inhabitants near Liege, Belgium fried small fish as food and, when the rivers froze, they would fry potatoes instead. Recipes for fried potatoes, however, also date back to 1755 in French cookbooks. Perhaps we’ll never truly know if fries are French. My money is on the Belgians. Maybe we should take the UK’s lead and start calling French fries “chips” to keep it fair!
2. FRENCH TOAST
A Roman dude named Apicius wrote a cookbook, and one of his recipes was “another sweet dish,” which involved frying white bread dipped in milk and eggs in oil. In addition, variations of French toast were eaten throughout Europe in the Middle Ages. Needless to say the origins are not French, and, let’s face it, people may have been making this delicious stuff even before Apicius wrote the recipe down. Maybe we should call it caveman toast!
3. FRENCH PRESS
As with many of these “French” foods, the origins of the French press is questionable. No one knows for sure who first invented the French press, but we do know that the first patent for the French press was filed by a Milanese designer named Attilio Callimani in 1929. Put that in your Italian coffee pot and press it!
Quiche is certainly a classic French dish, but quiche actually originated in Germany in a medieval kingdom called Lothringen, an area later renamed Lorraine by the French. See it all coming together? Etymology for quiche supports the German claim the French word quiche comes from Alsatian German Küche, diminutive of German Kuchen “cake.”
Now, the origin of the baguette is very unclear. Obviously the French have been cooking bread for some time, and there are so many variations in shape that it’s hard to define the exact beginnings of the baguette. According to the Houston Press, many agree that the baguette most likely derived from either the pain viennois or the Kaiser roll. What is clear is that August Vang, an Austrian entrepreneur, is the one who introduced the steam oven to France. Food writer Elizabeth David inadvertently credits the baguette, croissant and modern French bread in general to Zang because of his “Viennese oven.”
Just because you don’t have a Viennese oven at home doesn’t mean you can’t make a easy and tasty French baguette yourself. Try this quick and crusty baguette recipe.
Yes, the French do make parfaits. No, they look nothing like American parfaits! A French parfait is like a pureed dessert custard and can be served in any kind of dish. An American parfait, however, is a layered dessert and is always (or at least usually!) served in a parfait glass. Just because you use a fancy French word doesn’t make you French!
7. FRENCH DRESSING
If you ask a French grocer for French dressing, he’ll probably look at you funny. Or point you to the oil and vinegar aisle. But a bottle of pinkish, creamy dressing will not be found on his grocery shelves! French dressing as we Americans know it is American in origin. In fact, French dressing was Kraft’s very first flavor of pourable dressing, which was introduced shortly after they acquired several regional mayonnaise companies.
8. FRENCH ONIONS
Hopefully this one is a no-brainer for all of us! French-fried onions made by French’s are commonly known as “French onions,” but the word “French” is in reference to how the onions are cooked. Fooled ya, huh?