Little Bits of History

George Crum

Posted in History by patriciahysell on August 24, 2011

George Crum and his Saratoga Chips

August 24, 1853: George Crum tires of hearing about his French fries being too soggy. In order to shut up an annoying customer, some say it was Cornelius Vanderbilt, Crum sliced the potatoes so thin before frying them that they could no longer be eaten with a fork. Since he served them from a restaurant in Saratoga, New York, he named the surprising new taste treat Saratoga chips.

The most eaten food in the whole world is rice, second is the lowly potato. The French were making fries since the 1700s. Thomas Jefferson who served as ambassador to France, brought the recipe back to Monticello with him. He served the French fries to his dinner guests and the US began their love affair with the fried potato treat.

Crum made his fries in the standard fashion. Thickly sliced, fried, and salted. Due to the constant complaining, he tried to prove a point and ended up inventing a new treat – the Saratoga chip. By 1860 Crum opened his own restaurant, also in Saratoga and had a basket of his chips placed on each table. The treat was in great demand and he even distributed Saratoga chips to the Vanderbilts (father and son), Jay Gould, and Henry Hilton.

Crum never patented his invention and by 1895 William Tappendon of Cleveland, Ohio was packaging the treats and selling them as food to grocery stores. They often got soggy before the chips were consumed and in 1935, Laura Scudder ironed waxed paper into a sealed bag and kept the chips fresher, longer. Today, these treats are called potato chips and there are 1000 varieties listed (manufacturers, varieties, flavors) worldwide. The potato chip is big business with $16.4 billion in sales in 2005. That figure accounts for 35.5% of all “savory snacks” sold – a $46.1 billion business.

“I am not telling people to stop eating potato chips and French fries, … But I and all consumers should have the information we need to make informed decisions about the food we eat.” – Bill Lockyer

“While sandwiches are the number one consumed entree at lunch and dinner in this country, more than 35 billion ‘naked’ sandwiches are eaten a year without potato chips.” – Lora DeVuono

“More money is spent on potato chips every year in the United States than is spent on political campaigns. And yet, what’s the relative importance to the fate of the nation?” – Toby Nixon

“Nine hundred million pounds of potato chips are switching. We’re taking 60 million pounds of saturated fat out of the American diet.” – Rocco Papalia

Also on this day:
Pompeii Disappears – In AD 79, Mount Vesuvius erupts.
Waffling – In 1869, a waffle iron was patented.

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