Heritage Minister looks to make 'frietkoten' protected monuments

Heritage Minister looks to make 'frietkoten' protected monuments
A 'frietkot' in Flanders. Credit: Belga

In light of the "Week of the Chips," Flemish Immovable Heritage Minister Matthias Diependaele wants to offer formal protection to several chip shops (frietkoten in Dutch) by recognising them as monuments.

During the week of 29 November to 5 December, Belgian fries are being put in the spotlight – a statue called De Frieteters (the chip eater) was even unveiled in Bruges to pay homage to the country’s famous fries – but Diependaele wants to ensure a more permanent recognition for the fried potato dish and its makers.

"The chip shop culture has already been recognised as an immaterial heritage for some time now, but the typical 'frietkoten' are increasingly being closed down. That is why I want to protect a few chips shops in Flanders as monuments," he said in a press release.

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Together with the Agency for Real Estate Heritage, he will launch an investigation to map out those stands worthy of legal protection, in collaboration with the Flemish local authorities.

"It is obviously not the intention to protect everything. We are frugal with our protections and therefore only choose high-quality heritage gems. But I do want to compile a nice sample card for future generations," Diependaele said.

Owners of buildings that have been recognised as monuments can benefit from certain support measures and tax advantages, which could help chip shop owners who are struggling financially.

He stressed that those chip shops that are awarded the protection should not be hindered in their activities, which is why the representatives of the sector will be closely involved in the research. "By the end of this legislature, the first Flemish chip shops must be protected," the statement read.

Ministyer Diependaele in one of the "pensenkramen" (pensen are sausages sold in some frietkoten) at the Oud Vleeshuis in Ghent. Credit: Diependaele's cabinet

Diependaele added that, as Immovable Heritage Minister, he wants to emphasise that monuments are much more than castles or cathedrals.

"A few years ago, we investigated historic 'volkscafés' with a view to protecting them. It is clear to me that our chip shops should not be left out either. Heritage must be tangible for Flemish people."

Echoing industry appeals

Diependaele's announcement comes almost a decade after chip shop owners (frietuurs) themselves called for "frietkoten" to be included in the inventory of "intangible cultural heritage," as even then, many faced closure. A 2013 petition to this effect was submitted to then minister of culture Joke Schauvliege, according to reports from De Morgen.

The National Association of French Fryers (Navefri), which already submitted a dossier to the Minister to obtain the recognition, also asked the general public for support in this bid, adding that this would be essential to gain ministerial backing.

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