Belgium seeks to have potato fries declared cultural heritage

Fri Dec 5, 2014 4:21pm EST
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By Robert-Jan Bartunek

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - There are few things people agree on in linguistically divided Belgium, but an effort to get Belgian potato fries recognized as global cultural heritage and put it on a par with Peking opera and the Argentinian tango may get unequivocal support.

Belgian fries are traditionally sold, in a paper cone, in a "fritkot", generally a shack or trailer.

There are some 5,000 of these in Belgium, making them 10 times more common, per capita, than McDonald's restaurants in the United States.

To become recognized by the United Nations' cultural arm UNESCO, they need to be endorsed by a minister of culture, and Belgium has three of them.

The government of the Dutch speaking region of Flanders recognized Belgian fries as an integral part of national culture this year, and the French- and German-speaking communities are expected to debate the issue next year.

UNAFRI, the national association of fritkot owners, which started the drive, says the unpolished establishments are uniquely Belgian, combining the country's embrace of chaos with a dislike of corporate uniformity.

"A cone of potato chips is Belgium in miniature. What's astounding is that this way of thinking is the same, notwithstanding the different communities and regions," said spokesman Bernard Lefevre.

Many tourists join the locals in the long queues at popular Brussels fritkots such as Frit Flagey and Maison Antoine.   Continued...

A large cone of fries with mayonnaise sauce is pictured at the Maison Antoine frites stand in Brussels December 4, 2014.  REUTERS/Yves Herman