Will it be chippy chips, crinkle cut, or spicy peri-peri? Perhaps you prefer skin-on, sweet potato, or triple-cooked gastro? Do you like yours drenched in vinegar, topped with cheese and bacon, accompanied by a generous blob of ketchup, or just straight-up with a sprinkle of salt?
Whatever your preference, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who doesn’t love the humble chip.
With so many varieties to choose from, you know that whatever you fancy – whether an accompaniment to a juicy steak, a side for a succulent piece of battered cod or just as a snack – it’s not hard to find the perfect solution for your potato-based cravings.
There are so many options available, it’s difficult to choose. You might fancy a southern-fried coating or just a plain French fry with no seasoning at all.
You could be faced with differing preferences in the same family and, therefore, welcome an option that allows you to control the seasoning, like McCain Salt and Pepper Shake Shake Fries. Or you might be hot-footing it to your nearest chippy to enjoy a newspaper-wrapped treat in the sunshine.
Who Invented the French Fry?
The humble chip has come a long way over the years and has presented itself in many different incarnations across the centuries.
The Belgians feel so strongly that they were the first to enjoy the potato in this way that they have actually approached UNESCO with a petition seeking heritage status for their fries.
The French feel equally strongly, claiming the Belgians are simply wrong to suggest they were the pioneers in fried potato snacks. Despite this ongoing and lively dispute, in actual fact, the earliest records can be found in Latin America.
Chilean writer Francisco Núñez de Pineda y Bascuñán spoke of attending a dinner where he was served ‘fried and stewed potatoes’ in 1629. And there we were thinking that the clue was in the name. Who knew?
Wherever it originated, the French fry has universal appeal, most commonly being served as a side to accompany meat or fish, or as a snack in its own right. Whether smothered in gravy, dipped in aioli, or enjoyed with mussels and beer, everyone agrees that chips are delicious.
In his book The Complete Guide to the Art of Modern Cookery, published in 1903, famous French chef Auguste Escoffier advises that once cut into batons, square at the ends, potatoes should be deep fried ‘until crisp on the outside and soft in the centre’.
To this day, his description remains the holy grail of the French fry. It’s what we all imagine when seeking out a trusted burger joint for the ultimate comforting side dish.
It’s what we serve our friends and families when we invite them over for homemade fish and chips. Yet, this method of cooking comes with a large amount of oil and the associated health concerns that niggle on the conscience.
The Healthier Oven Chip
While we can all agree that eating a diet dominated by fried food can’t be good for your health, luckily there’s a much healthier way to enjoy your favourite snack. It’s now possible to remove deep-fat frying from the equation altogether.
Thankfully, there’s now a huge range of oven chips on the market and the huge number of options and choices is constantly increasing.
Switching to the healthier oven chip has meant we can breathe a sigh of relief and ditch the guilt. A lot of the damaging-to-health associations have been removed and we can rest easy knowing we can indulge in this versatile and delicious staple of our diets without the worry.
A balanced diet is, of course, the most important thing, and nobody is suggesting that eating chips every day is a good idea, but when you do want to treat yourself the oven chip is a sensible alternative to its deep-fried cousin.
There aren’t many things quite as satisfying or comforting than a plate of perfectly cooked, lightly seasoned, golden chips. Hungry? Us, too.