Belgium seeks to have potato fries declared cultural heritage

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.

“Before I came here, one of the only things I knew about Belgium was that they liked their fries, so I think they are pretty much there already,” said Rachael Webb, a visitor from Ottawa, Canada, holding a cone of fries.

UNESCO has a list of 314 items of intangible cultural heritage worthy of preservation, ranging from Turkish coffee to the polyphonic singing of the Aka pygmies of the Central African Republic.

Potatoes reached Belgium in the 16th century, but it was not until the 19th century that they were widely sold chipped and fried as a meal in themselves. UNAFRI says 95 percent of Belgians visit a fritkot at least once a year.