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The Independent Online

One of the greatest, unsolved mysteries of European culture has been tackled in a public debate in Brussels. And left unsolved… did the French invent chips? Or was it the Belgians?

According to French legend, the "frite" was invented by street merchants on the Pont Neuf in Paris just after the French revolution in the late 18th century.

According to Belgian folklore, the chip was invented by accident in the 17th century by the people of Namur, in what later became southern Belgium. One day when the river Meuse was frozen, local fishermen chopped up potatoes into slices resembling small fish and fried those instead.

As part of a festival of food in the Belgian capital called "Brusselicious", culinary experts and historians from both countries have examined the competing claims. Pierre Leclerc, a professor at the university of Liège, admitted there was little proof of Belgium's paternity. "Belgians adore chips but serious scientific research on the subject has only just begun," he said.

And what of Britain's claim to the invention of the "bâtonne de pomme de terre trempé dans l'huile bouillante" better known as the chip, frite or French fry? There are references to potato "chips" being sold in Britain in the early 19th century but these may have been chunkier than the chips of today.

Whatever their origins, Belgian culinary experts insist chips have achieved their pinnacle in quality and cultural importance in Belgium. "We, the Belgians, have made the chip something noble in itself," said Albert Verdeyen, co-author of a book on chips.