From the mid 1960s, there was a tv commercial extolling Port St Lucie Animal Removal, crispy goodness of potato chips. Its catch phrase was”I bet you can’t eat just one!” A small nibble off the edge of a potato chip, no matter what your good intentions, led in the nibble to 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 another one, nor the one after that. What was happening?! Good heavens! Are you currently turning into a potato chip junkie?
Let’s shed some light on the origins of this crunchy treat.
In the mid 1850s, frying potatoes was an accepted and popular type of American cooking. They were not eaten with the fingers but instead, served with a fork, to be consumed in a genteel manner. Restaurants throughout the nation were serving fried potatoes, but it wasn’t until the chef at Moon Lake Lodge in Saratoga Springs, New York, sliced the potato pieces so thin did they become the rage.
It is generally thought by food historians that George Crum was the inventor of the potato chip. He was a brilliant personality in the Saratoga Springs area.
As stated before, fried potatoes were a favorite fare. A demanding dinner guest, rumored to be Cornelius Vanderbilt, found his order of French fries (at that moment, potatoes cut in a round shape) too thick for his liking and sent them back to the kitchen. Crum made another batch, cut thinner than before and also fried, but these, too, were 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 which were much too thin and crisp 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 snack”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 quickly grew in popularity throughout the New England area.
In 1860, Crum opened his own restaurant that 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. Besides marketing the chips, Crum foolishly did not patent or protect his invention.
Peeling and slicing potatoes manually was slow and tedious. The 1920s creation of the mechanical potato peeler caused 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. However, in the 1920s, merchandizing and distribution of the snack took a turn for the better; their popularity increasing year by year during the entire 20th century.
In the 1920s, Herman Lay, a traveling salesman working the Southern region of the country, was a major catalyst in popularizing the chips from Atlanta to Tennessee. He peddled Crum’s invention 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 early part of the 20th century brought forth several companies building large factories to the mass production of potato chips. The 1920s gave birth of three businesses which define the potato chip industry.
Earl Wise, Sr., of the Wise Delicatessen Company in Berwick, Pennsylvania, had too many potatoes. In 1921, he utilized the extras to make potato chips and sold them in brown paper bags as Wise Potato Chips throughout the delicatessen.
In 1921, Utz Quality Foods of Hanover, Pennsylvania was founded by Bill and Salie Utz. Salie made the chips which were promoted and sold by her husband Bill, and were called Hanover Home Brand Potato Chips. Salie was able to turn out about 50 pounds of potato chips per hour, using hand-operated equipment, in a little summer house behind their dwelling.
1926 was notable for potato chip supply. Until then, potato chips were kept in bulk in cracker barrels or glass display cases. Paper wasn’t very practical, as oil in the chips could seep through the sacks and onto the consumer’s hands.
Laura Scudder had a family chip company in Monterey Park, California. She knew the inherent flaw in the paper sacks; nobody enjoyed being coated with cooking oil. Her inspired solution to this problem was brilliant. . The following day, the employees hand-filled chips to the waxed paper bags and then sealed them with a warm iron. Voila! Greaseproof bags, ready to be delivered to retailers.
Potato chips are now the favorite 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 individual’s life expectancy. The New Englanders weren’t concerned that potatoes were fried in fat and covered with salt (each cardiologist’s bane); they had much more worry about joys of the flesh. They believed the potato, in its pristine condition, contained an aphrodisiac that led to actions and behavior felt to be detrimental to long life; based on these souls, 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 have known this to be not true and just caused by misdirected thinking.
Mass potato chip manufacturing, in modern facilities, utilizes continuous fryers or flash skillet. In place of raw potato pieces.
I bet you can not eat just one…