Did you know the invention of Potato Chips was initially meant to be a prank? The origins of this goes back to the late 19th Century, in a famous eating house on Saratoga Lake, New York. A well known chef named George Crum was cooking dinner for Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt, a wealthy businessman at that time.
Vanderbilt was very upset with the French Fries in one of the dishes that was served. He demanded that the potatoes were too soggy and should be returned to the kitchen. (You should also note that the French Fries back then are cut up in much thicker slices than what we have today). Crum took in the feedback and and cooked a fresh batch of French Fries, this time more thinly sliced.
However the fussy Vanderbilt still gave the same complaint and the dish was rejected back into the kitchen again.
At his wits end, Crum decided to pull a prank on Vanderbilt by slicing a new batch of potatoes as thinly as possible, then deep-frying them thoroughly. Finally he went on to add tonnes of salt making the “French Fries” inedible. The French Fries came out extremely salty and so crisp that it couldn’t be eaten with a fork. In that era, using your hands to eat was deemed as a very crude manner. Moreover this was in a high-class restaurant.
However instead of complaining yet again, Vanderbilt lauded Crum’s innovation! Though his prank backfired, but this lead to the start of the popularity of potato chips! The dish was subsequently featured as an exclusive dish on the menu and was known as the “Saratoga Chips”.
Later on George Crum left to start his own dining establishment and continued to serve these chips. They became so popular, that they started being sold in packages – locally, at first, but soon also across all New England. They were packaged in a box similar to a gift box, which held the engraving “The Original Saratoga Chips, Saratoga Specialties, Saratoga, N.Y.”
Towards the very end of the 19th century and the early 20th century, potato chips started being produced in factories and sold in grocery stores. Companies popped up all over America, until the 1920s, when they arrived on foreign land, in England, where they received the name “crisps”, due to the fact that the word “chips” was already used to refer to French Fries.
From then on, chips only got more and more popular. The mid-1920s saw the innovation of the sealed bag of chips, having previously been stored in barrels or glass cases. The bags were sealed, resistant to moisture and easy to produce, sell and consume. As the years kept passing, new technologies made the chips easier, cheaper and faster to produce than ever, which resulted in their explosion in popularity, not only on American soil, but also in the rest of the world.
Today, potato chips are among the most popular snacks worldwide, and the industry is worth 5 billion dollars only in America alone. It’s safe to say that chips aren’t going anywhere. If anything, with the dozens of new flavors appearing every day, they are only becoming more and more popular.