Anyone who has ever wondered why fries are French or whether chicken soup can really cure what ails you will want to take note of a new series debuting this week on Cooking Channel.
In “Food: Fact or Fiction,” premiering Monday (Oct. 26), host Michael McKean (“Better Call Saul,” “This Is Spinal Tap”) explores longstanding adages about food and seeks to debunk or prove some of the most common food myths. Along the way, he delves into the history of some common comestibles and reveals fascinating stories about them.
“It’s a lot of stuff I didn’t know,” he tells Zap2it. “And the more we talked about it [in creating the six episode, half-hour series] and the more we went through it, the more we realized just axiomatic things about food have entered the language but we don’t know where they came from.”
One popular food legend explored is how fried potatoes became known as French fries. McKean explains it actually dates back to an 18th century conflict between France and Germany.
“There was a Frenchman who was captured by the Germans,” he says. “And when he was thrown into military prison, he was being fed potatoes, and at first he wouldn’t eat them because it’s pig food. … But he developed a taste for it and he came back to Paris with this idea of, ‘We can do all these things with potatoes. Look at this stuff. We can chop them up and fry them.’ And nobody would put it on the menu because it was pig food. Everybody knew what a potato was.
“But the French street peddlers got ahold of the idea,” he continues, “[and] they started making French fries, basically fried potatoes, and it became a huge hit. And it was kind of a street-level food, kind of a popular food. Rather than cordon bleu, it was just good. It was just throw a little salt on there — Jesus, c’mon, I could go for a stack of fries right now.
“So anyway, [the show is] not just mythology,” McKean says, “it’s stuff that you just plain didn’t know.”