Do you know where you very favorite foods and dishes originated? Many people think they do. It seems like it’s pretty easy to figure out where certain meals first came from. Pasta dishes were clearly first created in Italy, where the sauces and noodles beloved by everyone today are staples. Sushi definitely comes from Japan, where each creation is an art. French fries must be French — how else did they earn their official name?
But the truth is that plenty of foods and kitchen creations have long, storied histories. Whether it was first made by a home cook or concocted by a professional chef, some of the most popular foods we eat regularly have pretty interesting — and surprising — backstories.
The history of some of the world’s most favorite dishes isn’t as straightforward and simple as it seems. Even if you think you know where foods like spaghetti and meatballs, sushi, and meatloaf came from, you’re probably wrong. Some of the most “obvious” food facts are completely false. Here’s where your food actually came from; the truth is going to surprise you.
Spaghetti and Meatballs is American, Not Italian
While most people assume that every pasta dish originated in Italy, the truth is that some of the best-known “Italian” staples are actually creations developed in totally different places. And that’s exactly how spaghetti and meatballs, a classic pasta creation, came about.
You won’t find anything like spaghetti and meatballs on menus in Italy. And Italian home cooks won’t make it either. That’s because spaghetti and meatballs is actually an American creation.
Italians did create a dish that’s similar to meatballs — polpettes, which are made with ground meats like turkey and fish. However, the meat was always eaten separately from pasta, never mixed into it. When people immigrated from Italy to America in the late 1800s and early 1900s, they couldn’t find the same ingredients to make polpettes. But they could find ground beef, so creative Italian Americans began making the very first meatballs.
Spaghetti came about in a similar way. Canned tomatoes were easy to find, and spaghetti was one of the only Italian ingredients immigrants could by, so they created a new sauce to eat with spaghetti. Eventually the meatballs were added right into the mix.
French Fries Were Originally Made From Fish, Not Potatoes
French fries, despite their very clear name, have very little to do with the country of France. Although they’re one of the most popular side dishes in the world, fries actually have one of the most intriguing backgrounds of any food — and you’ll never expect how they first appeared.
The French fry was created in Belgium. Back in the 1600s, poor villagers in Belgium created the very first fries. But here’s the crazy part: they weren’t frying up potatoes. Well, at least not at first.
French fries actually started as fried fish. Villagers would catch small fish in local rivers, then fry them to get them crispy. And when winter arrived and fishing wasn’t possible, the Belgians turned to something else: the potato. To fuel themselves in the coldest months of the year, Belgium villagers began turning their “fish fries” into fried slices of potatoes. And that’s how the French fry was born.