Feb 19, 2011

Potato chips and redemption

My grandma is 95 today. A while ago, when my kids and I were in Minneapolis for something or other, my son John said, "Hey, we should visit Great-Grandma."

It was around lunchtime so we decided to bring lunch with us. Before we arrived at her place, we picked up some deli sandwiches and potato chips at the local grocery store.

Grandma was especially excited about the potato chips. During the course of our lunch together she must have said no less than six times: "Whoever invented the potato chip, they really knew what they were doing!" The kids and I still wonder about the potato chip inventor and relish Grandma's enthusiasm for the treat every time we have potato chips now.

So, in honor of Grandma's 95th birthday, I present:
The story of the invention of the potato chip:

George Crum
In the summer of 1853, Native American George Crum was employed as a chef at an elegant resort in Saratoga Springs, New York. On Moon Lake Lodge's restaurant menu were French-fried potatoes, prepared by Crum in the standard, thick-cut French style that was popularized in 1700s France and enjoyed by Thomas Jefferson as ambassador to that country. Ever since Jefferson brought the recipe to America and served French fries to guests at Monticello, the dish was popular and serious dinner fare.

At Moon Lake Lodge, one dinner guest found chef Crum's fries too thick. Crum cut and fried a thinner batch, but these, too, met with disapproval. Exasperated, Crum decided to rile the guest by producing French fries too thin and crisp to skewer with a fork. The plan backfired. The guest was ecstatic over the browned, paper-thin potatoes, and other diners requested Crum's potato chips, which began to appear on the menu as Saratoga Chips, a house specialty.

In 1860 George opened his own restaurant in a building on Malta Avenue near Saratoga Lake, and within a few years was catering to wealthy clients including William Vanderbilt, Cornelius Vanderbilt, Jay Gould, and Henry Hilton. (For more information visit this site where I got this story. http://www.ideafinder.com/history/inventions/potatochips.htm)

Interestingly, Grandma's comment that whoever invented the potato chip really knew what they were doing is not accurate, though it is a fine expression of the joy she had eating them. George Crum did not know what he was doing.

I find it fascinating that the potato chip was born out of frustration and became a culinary sensation.

What a fantastic redemption.


  1. Anne, I don't have any profound comments to make, but this made me smile. :)

  2. It's one of my goals, to make you smile.


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