Q. Can you tell me about the history of French fries in Idaho?
A. French fries, though named for their country of origin, were transformed in the 1950s into the world-famous fries that put Idaho potatoes on the map. A couple of enterprising Idahoans discovered that Idaho potatoes were perfectly suited to create the ultimate French fry, so they set out to bring Idaho potatoes to kitchens across America. It wasn’t without some trial and error, though.
If you’ve tried to make French fries in your own kitchen at home, you may have discovered that you can’t turn fresh potatoes into the ones you find in the frozen aisle at your local grocery store. If you try to freeze fresh potatoes, they’ll eventually turn black. Many an unhappy cook has learned this lesson the hard way. In order to prevent potatoes from turning black, you need to place them in water with some lemon juice or vinegar added. Then, you need to partially cook the potatoes, a process called blanching, before you freeze or refrigerate them.
This was how the Simplot Company, founded in 1923 by a World War II veteran from a small town in Idaho named J.R. Simplot, revolutionized the frozen French fried potato industry. Ray Dunlap, a young chemist, figured out that by partially cooking the potatoes, they could then be air dried and frozen for frying later.