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France is considered by many to be the birthplace of gourmet cuisine, which Julia Child introduced to millions of Americans in the 1960s with her seminal cookbooks and spirited TV show.

Get the skinny for Bastille Day

But whether or not you know the provenance of a roux or what's in bearnaise sauce, there are plenty of "French" foods that have snuck into the American repertoire. But just how French are they, anyway?

Have you ever wondered if French fries were really invented in France, or what they call French onion soup in Paris? Find out how our perception of French food compares to the real thing and have some impressive trivia for your friends and family this Bastille Day.

Get inspired by our collection of French recipes >>

French fries

French fries

You may be disappointed to learn that French fries were not, in fact, invented in France. Belgium lays claim to this culinary innovation. Some credit Thomas Jefferson with coining the term when he referred to "potatoes served in the French manner" in 1802 (apparently the term French fried was used at the time to refer to anything that was deep-fried). Despite the fact that they are not, in fact, French, fries are still very popular today in France, where they are called pommes frites.

French onion soup

French onion soup

In contrast, French onion soup is actually from France originally. According to Wikipedia, "although ancient in origin, this dish underwent a resurgence of popularity in the 1960s in the United States due to a greater interest in French cuisine." Traditionally made with caramelized onions and beef stock and topped with toasted bread and melted gruyere cheese, in the U.S., you'll often find all manner of cheeses on top. Should you end up in Paris, look for soup a l'oignon on menus (simply onion soup).

French toast

French toast

French toast has much murkier origins, but it can actually be traced all the way back to ancient Roman times! Some say it is a French invention, where it is called pain perdu. Traditionally in France, as well as England, Spain, Germany and other countries, it was a way to put stale bread to good use. In both the U.S. and France, stale bread is typically soaked in a mixture of eggs, milk, sugar and, sometimes, cinnamon and vanilla before being fried and served as brunch fare.

Check out this recipe for classic (American) French toast >>

French bread

The French are known for their baking, and bread is elevated to a work of art. In the U.S., you can often purchase a loaf of "French bread," but this is a far cry from the crusty baguettes that the French are so proud of. Many American bakeries have learned the secret of the baguette, however, which is considered the true French bread and an emblem of French culture.

More French food inspiration

Homemade butter and chocolate croissants
Basic crepe batter recipe
Make a perfect souffle with Joanne Weir

Tags: french french fries french toast

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Comments on "American vs. French Food"

lalaloopsy September 13, 2013 | 9:14 AM

oooo frenchie fries!!!!! i love'em!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! sad to know they are not actually from france but YOLO!!!

Hayden July 25, 2012 | 1:10 PM

I too had no idea that Belgium is the original birthplace of French Fries. You really do learn something new everyday! No matter who brought them to the US, they are a great treat that I love (even if my waistline doesn't love them back).

Vanessa July 13, 2012 | 12:42 PM

Call me stupid, but I never knew French fries were invented in Belgium. Katherine, you are absolutely right that we Americans have perfected French fries, and we should also take a lot of the credit for elevating them to their ubiquitous status. This article does a good job distinguishing Americanized French onion soup and French bread from their original counterparts. It is also interesting to learn that French toast can trace its origins all the way back to ancient Rome! I can’t wait to travel to France someday to experience authentic French cuisine!

Kathrine July 13, 2012 | 12:00 PM

I do not entirely believe that we American should be taking all the responsibility for French Fries. If you go anywhere in Europe, even to the most authentic places, fries are on the menu. Americans may have perfected them but I’m not sure we can take all the credit. The French deserve lost of praise for their baking that’s for sure.

Erica July 12, 2012 | 9:40 AM

Ooh, French fries! They aren't something I want to eat every day but when I do, they are oh so good.

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