As has now been customary for more than two decades, the final week of November is known as “Week van de Friet” in Belgium. In celebrating the tradition’s 22nd edition, the capital city of Bruges in the province of West Flanders paid special tribute to Belgian-style fried potatoes prepared in the nation’s ubiquitous chip shops with the unveiling of the “De Frieteters” statue. It will remain on prominent display in the Bruges Market Square for a full year.
One has to wonder after seeing this contemporary work of art depicting the pleasure of sitting down to indulge in a cone of fried potatoes, if the subject of August Rodin’s famous Les Penseur (The Thinker) bronze sculpture created in 1904 was not actually “thinking” about eating a tasty serving of french fries at the time.
Pointing out that Belgium’s renowned chip culture has been built on and maintained by the nation’s thriving potato sector, which annually processes 3.5 million tons of potatoes into fries, mashed potatoes and flakes, Flemish Minister of Agriculture Hilde Crevits unveiled the De Frieteters statue along with Dirk De fauw, Prince Laurent and representatives of Navefri, Belgapom and VLAM.
“Golden-yellow crispy fries from the chip shop are our trademark,” stated Crevits. “Chip culture is part of our cultural heritage. Almost everyone has their favorite deep-fried chips, their favorite sauce, their regular order, their regular fries ritual…We all appreciate the baking art of our fryers, but also the whole experience that comes with a visit to the chip shop.”
Liliane Driesen of VLAM (Flemish Center for Agricultural and Fisheries Marketing) could not have agreed more, remarking: “Our fries, our national pride, deserve to be put in the spotlight at least once a year. During this Week of the Fries we want everyone to reflect once again on the taste and experience that are so unique about Belgian fries. In addition to the inauguration of the statue, online attention will also be given to our national pride. Several influencers will share frying adventures with their followers this week.”
And so the chip shop and the taste and aroma of Belgian fries are deeply ingrained in the national streetscape. Indeed, this can be taken literally because at the foot of the Bruges Belfry, next to the two iconic chip shops and the monument of local folk heroes Jan Breydel and Pieter de Coninck, the De Frieteters statue portrays the joy of sampling fried potatoes the Belgian way.