It’s National Potato Chip Day, so of course we’re going to take you through the history of potato chips and the man at the center of that story, sometimes called “the Edison of grease.”
That would be George Crum, who had previously been known as George Speck.
In the mid 19th century, Crum, who was of both African American and Native descent, was working at a place called Moon’s Lake House in Saratoga Springs, New York.
Back then Saratoga Springs catered to wealthy and famous vacationers, with world-famous spas, gambling and elegant mansions for rent.
One of those ultra-rich tourists was the railroad and shipping tycoon Cornelius Vanderbilt.
The story goes that while dining at Moon’s Lake House, he sent his fried potatoes back to Crum, the chef, saying they were much too thick.
Crum got irritated with the customer and decided to conduct some malicious compliance: if Vanderbilt wanted thin potatoes, that’s what he would get!
Chef Crum sliced the potatoes as thin as he could, fried them until they were crispy, and sent them back out.
But Vanderbilt loved the new version, and word started to get around town about Crum’s creation, which soon became known as Saratoga Chips.
Now, we should note that cookbooks from decades earlier had suggested frying potato slices.
There was even a news report a few years before Crum met Vanderbilt that claimed another cook in Saratoga Springs, known as “Eliza,” had become popular for frying up potatoes.
But Crum’s Saratoga Chips are the ones that started the potato chip craze in the United States.
The chef went on to open up his own restaurant and named it after himself, so diners knew they were eating chips from the man who made them famous.
Because by then plenty of other restaurants had started offering their own versions.
By 1895 the chips started showing up in grocery stores, and in the early 20th century entrepreneurs added another key touch: those loud bags, which they correctly predicted would attract attention.
Today it’s said the average American eats around four pounds of potato chips a year, which amounts to a heck of a lot of potatoes getting very thinly sliced the way George Crum used to slice them.
Potatoes are made into chips, into fries, into soups – they’re pretty versatile.
Now they’re being made into perfume!
Earlier this year the Idaho Potato Commission released Frites By Idaho, a fragrance featuring the quote “irresistible essence of potatoes.”
I’m Brady, and in case you were wondering, they sold all the bottles. Thanks etc
How the Potato Chip Took Over America (Smithsonian)