But have you ever given any thought to their origin? I hadn't until yesterday when Quigley, Jr. said that he wished he'd invented potato chips. That got me wondering...who DID invent potato chips...and when did they first appear? Here's what I learned.
George Crum, born George Speck was born July 15, 1824. George became a renowned chef at Moon's Lake House in Sarasota Springs, New York in the mid-1800's. Moon's Lake House was a high-end restaurant that catered to very wealthy patrons when George went to work for there. One of those patrons was Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt who regularly forgot Chef George's given surname. He began calling him Crum and it stuck. George Speck was known professionally as George Crum forever after.
Legend has it that the potato chip was invented when a picky customer, many think it was Vanderbilt himself, kept sending his french fries back because they were too thick. Becoming frustrated with the customer's constant complaints, Chef George sought revenge by slicing the potatoes paper-thin, frying them until they were crispy, and topping them off with a lot of salt. As luck would have it, the customer loved them and Moon's Lake House restaurant added them to their menu, calling them Sarasota Chips.
But like every good story, there are a number of notable disputes. Recipes for slicing potatoes wafer-thin and frying them supposedly appeared in cookbooks around the early 1800's...well before Crum was ever born. Several reports and biographies on George Crum are conspicuously missing any mention of his famous invention. His obituary neglected to mention it, as well. The best dispute, however, comes from his own sister Kate Wicks who claims it was she who invented the potato chip. Her obituary published in 1924, lists her age as 102. The obit goes on to say that while she was working at Moon's Lake House, alongside her brother George, she inadvertently let a sliver of a potato fall into the fryer. She let Crum taste it. His "enthusiastic approval" led to his decision to add it to the restaurant's menu. This story is supported by Wick's own recount of the event and has been published in several periodicals.
Visitors came from far and wide to taste this new treat sensation and Cary Moon, owner of the restaurant, even tried to claim the invention as his own. Moon even went so far as to sell boxes of the now-famous Sarasota Chips. Crum eventually left Moon's establishment and opened up his own restaurant, simply named "Crum's," in 1860. Chef George provided each table with a basket of chips.
Crum's chips remained a local delicacy until 1920 when a salesman and entrepreneur named Herman Lay began traveling through the south introducing the potato chip to communities all over. Shortly thereafter, potato chips went into mass-production and Lay's Potato Chips were sold nationwide. Bet you can't eat just one...I know little brother Quigley sure can't!
I hope you had a wonderful and safe Father's Day. Until tomorrow, I wish you