Today, potato chips are one of the most popular snack foods all across the globe. Most people might not know it, but the said snack food is yet another accidental invention.
The story dates back to the summer of 1853 when George Crum, a half African American, half Native American, was working as a chef in the cavernous kitchen of Moon’s Lake House in Saratoga Springs, New York.
Cornelius Vanderbilt, a wealthy steamship owner, stepped into the restaurant and ordered its well-known Moon’s Fried Potatoes – a likely woodcock or partridge served with french fries. Crum prepared the potatoes and served them as he would normally do, but Vanderbilt refused it.
The french fries were too thick, he said. The chef created another batch, thinner this time, but the customer again complained that the thickness wasn’t to his liking.
Crum did not take the criticism well. In his anger, the cook shaved the thinnest possible pieces of potato into hot oil and fried them until they were hard and crunchy. Finally, to top them off, he added a generous heaping of salt.
He sent the browned and brittle rounds to the table as an insult, but to Crum’s surprise, the dish ended up being a hit with the patron and a novel snack was born.
The proprietress Harriet Moon soon declared that these chips would henceforth be served in delicate paper cornucopias as the signature dish of the restaurant. In later years, Crum opened his own restaurant, Crum’s Place, nearby.
Served on each table was, of course, a basket of potato chips which was a hit with his upscale clientele. There, millionaires like Vanderbilt would stand in line for hours for “Saratoga chips.”
However, in those days, people of color were not allowed to take out patents on their inventions, and Crum never attempted to patent potato chips.
The snack was eventually mass-produced sold in a bag without giving him any credit. More than 150 years later, Crum’s delicacy has gone on to even greater fame.