There are few foods that have been feed at some point by just about everybody in the Western world, but french fries are one of them.

Call them fries, call them chips, call them frites whatever you call them, fried potato sticks are one of the most universally beloved junk food on earth.

What is it about fries that makes them so popular? Its probably the facts of the case that, calorie count aside, theyre the perfect food. When submerged in hot petroleum thats the right temperature for the right amount of hour, something magical happens to sticks of sliced potatoes: They get golden brown and crispy on the outside, sunlight and fluffy on the inside, and become the perfect vessel for just about any topping, from salt and ketchup to gravy and cheese curds.

Ask any chef and he or she will tell you that theres a real science behind building perfect french fries. If the petroleum is too cold, theyll be limp and soggy; if its too hot, the outside will burn before the inside is cooked. All great fries need to be cooked twice; once in cooler petroleum to blanch them, and again in hotter oil right before service to crisp them up. The starch level needs to be just right, too; many chefs let their fries sit in water before cooking to allow some of the excess starch to drain.

When a fry is great its legendary, but when a fry is bad…its really bad.

Whether theyre Ore-Ida fries from the freezer segment of your supermarket, fries hot out of the fryer from McDonalds, or fries served alongside a burger at your local diner, french fries seem everywhere you turn in this country.

But theyre not just an American food, theyre popular the world over. And why not? Fries are just about impossible to dislike.

1. Nobody Can Agree on Where They Were Invented

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The French, Spanish, and Belgians all assert that they were the sole inventor of fries. Belgian fry lovers claim that theyre called French fries because all Belgian food is appropriated by the French; the French claim that street vendors on the Pont Neuf bridge were the first to sell them, in 1789; and the Spanish claim that, as the first European country to bring potatoes back from the New World, they have a historical argument for devising them.

2. British Chips Are Thicker Than American Fries

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You might think that chips and fries are identical save for the name, but visit a traditional British chipper and youll see that they couldnt be more different. Chips are cut much thicker, are slightly soggier, and actually contain less fat than American fries because of their thickness.

3. They Contain More Acrylamides Than Just About Any Other Food

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Acrylamide, a chemical compound that develops when starchy food is cooked at a high temperature, is considered a potential carcinogen by the U.S. government and has been shown to cause tumors in the adrenal glands, thyroid, and lungs when eaten in high concentrations. In a 2002 study, the World Health Organization determined that the intake level for toxicity was 500 times higher than in the average diet, but more studies are being conducted.