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History of Your Snack Potato Chips and its Journey from Accidental Invention to Your Favorite Flavor



Feeling hungry? Just grab a packet of chips. Picking up a packet of Lay’s is one of the easiest things because potato chips do not require one to pick up a plate to eat them, just rip open a bag of chips and there you are – your snack is ready. And these chips are not all that expensive either.


Potato chips were an accidental invention that came into being in the year 1822, when a chef at a resort wanted to teach some guests a lesson, for being too picky about the food that was served to them. George Crum was a multiracial American chef of an upmarket resting lodge infamously known as Moon Lake Lodge in Saratoga Springs, New York City.


He was once told off by Cornelius Vanderbilt, a wealthy steamship owner, who had ordered Moon Lake Lodge’s special potato fries (what we know today as French fries) that the fried potatoes served to them were soggy and not up to the mark. In turn, Crum began to slice the potatoes as thinly as he possibly could and then put them in the fryer. These potatoes were fried by Crum until they turned crispy and he then went on to add a large helping of salt to the crispy, fried potatoes. This was then served to disgruntled Vanderbilt in anger as a revolt to his negative criticism which made him felt insulted. But contrarily Vanderbilt was thrilled with the novel snack.


The proprietress Harriet Moon soon declared that these chips would henceforth be served in delicate paper cornucopias as the signature dish of Moon’s Lake House. With this, fried potato chips began to be popularised, then known as Saratoga Chips and people would often come to the restaurant at Moon Lake Lodge to have a try.


Crum went on to open his own restaurant in 1860 called Crumbs House in Saratoga Springs of New York itself. His restaurant catered to the wealthy strata of New Yorkers, hosting some of New York’s famous families, too. It is reported that on the tables in his restaurant, there would be baskets filled with Crum’s Saratoga Chips, and this is the name that was used to market them, too. While these chips were Crum’s invention, sadly, this was at a time where African American people did not have many rights. George Crum, being of African American origin, did not have the right to take out a patent on his invention. So, while Crum is the inventor of the Saratoga Chips, as it was even mentioned in his obituary when he died in the year 1914, unfortunately, when these chips were commercialised in the decades after they were invented, it all happened without any credit being given to Crum.


Though Crum died in the year 1914, he was still known by few in Saratoga Springs, and the folklorists William S. Fox and Mae G. Banner traced the evolution of the legend. Moon’s Lake House received credit in the mid-1800s for the potato chip. The first known mention of Crum’s involvement dated to 1885. And finally, after 120years Vanderbilt was first introduced in an advertisement after the supposed invention.


William Tappendon manufactured and marketed the chips in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1895. Family businesses were coming up all over the USA of making, packaging and selling packaging potato chips. Chips were often stored in large glass containers and were sold in paper bags to customers. This continued until Laura Scudder from California, USA in the year 1926 who owned a potato chip factory in Monterey Park, California came up with the idea of packaging potato chips in wax bags and sealing these bags with heat.


Later, Herman Lay used to sell potato chips from the trunk of his car. He partnered up with a snacks company called Frito that was based in Dallas and this furthered the reach of Herman Lay’s potato chips. This is how one of the biggest chips’ companies, Lay’s, came into the picture.


Until the 1950s, the only flavour in potato chips was salted. The first flavour that came about the USA was the barbeque flavour. This was at the hand of Joe Murphy, the owner of an Irish chip company called Tayto. He tried experimenting with a few flavours such as Cheese & Onion and Salt & Vinegar, which flourished well in Ireland. Following this, several American chip-sellers also began experimenting with these potato chips. Herr’s, a Pennsylvania-based company, was the first to release flavoured potato chips – they were barbeque flavoured and did quite well in the entire country after.


Lay’s is one of the most popular brands of potato chips today. It adapts to the flavours of different countries and has, hence, seen worldwide consumption. For example, India has flavours like “Magic masala” or the “Blue Lays” that adapts to Indian flavours. The adaptation of different flavours to match the flavours of the country where it’s being sold is a very smart marketing tactic.


Lay's" is the company's primary brand, with the exception of limited markets where other brand names are used: Walkers in the UK and Ireland; Smith's in Australia; Chipsy in Egypt and the West Balkans; Tapuchips in Israel; Margarita in Colombia; Sabritas in Mexico; and, formerly, Hostess in Canada. Other than international brands, potato chips are also sold locally the way they first were, when they had just been invented.


It’s amazing to know a study in Frontiers in Psychology, researchers gave three options to the rat; standard chow, a mix of fat and carbohydrates, or potato chips. But the rodents preferred the chips over the others. Scientifically it has been proven that salt in the chips triggers the release of dopamine, a chemical that controls your pleasure centre, so once you start taking a single bite yourself start craving for more and more.


Reportedly, Americans consume about 1.5 billion pounds of potato chips every year. The fact that people worldwide enjoy the salted, as well as all the other flavours of potato chips, really speaks to the internationality of the same and its huge popularity throughout the world.


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