In the mid 1960s, there was a tv commercial extolling the golden, crunchy goodness of potato chips. Its catch phrase was”I bet you can not eat just one!” A small nibble off the edge of a potato chip, no matter what your good intentions, led from the grinds into a normal size snack. Without thinking, you’d eaten the whole chip in a blink of an eye. You thought to yourself, another chip can not hurt. Nor the next one, nor the one after that. Good heavens! Are you currently turning into a potato chip junkie?
Let us shed some light on the roots of the crunchy treat.
In the mid 1850s, frying potatoes was an accepted and popular form of American cooking. They weren’t eaten with the fingers but instead, served with a fork, to be consumed in a genteel manner. Restaurants across the nation were serving fried potatoes, but it wasn’t until the chef in Moon Lake Lodge in Saratoga Springs, New York, sliced the potato pieces so thin did they become the rage.
It’s generally believed by food historians that George Crum was the inventor of the potato chip. He was a brilliant personality in the Saratoga Springs area. A former guide from the Adirondacks, he came from a racially mixed background; he was part Indian and part African-American.
As mentioned before, fried potatoes were a favorite fare. Crum made another batch, cut thinner than before and also fried, but these, too, were also rejected as being too thick. By this time, Crum was aggravated and in a fit of pique, took it upon himself to rile the guest by making him French fries that were much too thin and sharp to be skewered by a fork.
His “revenge” backfired on him. The fussy diner was ecstatic about the paper-thin potatoes and other guests asked Crum’s potatoes for themselves. Crum originally known as his bite”Potato Crunches” but the dish, now a house specialty, was recorded on the menu as”Saratoga Chips.” Soon thereafter, they were packaged and sold, initially locally, but rapidly grew in popularity throughout the New England region.
In 1860, Crum opened up his own restaurant which featured his processors as the house specialty. He put baskets of the chips on each table and they became an essential drawing point to the success of his restaurant. Other than marketing the chips, Crum foolishly did not patent or protect his invention.
Peeling and slicing potatoes was slow and tedious. The 1920s creation of the mechanical potato peeler resulted in the potato chip industry to skyrocket from being a small specialty item to a top-selling snack meals.
Potato chips were chiefly a Northern dinner dish for several decades after their creation. But, in the 1920s, merchandizing and distribution of the snack took a turn for the better; their popularity growing year by year during the entire 20th century.
From the 1920s, Herman Lay, a traveling salesman working the Southern area of the country, was a major catalyst in popularizing the chips from Atlanta to Tennessee. He peddled Crum’s creation to Southern grocers straight from the trunk of his car, his name and company eventually becoming synonymous with this crisp and salty treat. In 1932, he bought a potato chip factory in Atlanta. 1938 marked the start of Lay’s Brand Potato Chips.
The first part of the 20th century brought forth several companies building large factories for the mass production of potato chips. The 1920s gave birth of three companies which specify the potato chip industry.
Earl Wise, Sr., of the Wise Delicatessen Company in Berwick, Pennsylvania, had too many potatoes. In 1921, he used the extras to make potato chips and marketed them in brown paper bags as Wise Potato Chips through the delicatessen.
In 1921, Utz Quality Foods of Hanover, Pennsylvania was founded by Bill and Salie Utz. Salie made the chips which were marketed and sold by her husband Bill, and were known as Hanover Home Brand Potato Chips.
1926 was noteworthy for potato chip supply. Until then, potato chips were stored in bulk in cracker barrels or glass display cases. Paper was not very practical, as oil from the chips could seep through the sacks and onto the customer’s hands.
Laura Scudder had a family chip company in Monterey Park, California. She understood the inherent flaw in the paper sacks; no one enjoyed being covered with cooking oil. Her motivated solution to this problem was brilliant. . This day, the employees hand-filled chips into the waxed paper bags and then sealed them with a warm iron. Voila! Greaseproof bags, ready to be delivered to retailers.
Potato chips are currently the preferred snack of Americans, who eat more potato chips than any other population on earth.
In colonial times, New Englanders considered potatoes to be perfect as pig fodder. They believed that eating these tubers shortened a person’s life expectancy. The New Englanders were not concerned that potatoes were fried in fat and covered with salt (every cardiologist’s bane); they had much more worry about pleasures of the flesh. They considered the potato, in its pristine condition, contained an aphrodisiac that led to actions and behaviour felt to be detrimental to long life; based on these spirits, eating an unadulterated potato led to the demon SEX and needless to say, sex led to the downfall of man. For over a century, we’ve known this to be not true and just the result of misdirected thinking.
Mass potato chip manufacturing, in modern facilities, utilizes continuous fryers or flash frying. Shockingly, some potato chips are made from reconstituted potato flakes (yuck!) In place of raw potato pieces.
I bet you can’t eat just one…