Facts and History of Potato Chips

Potato chips (or “crisps” in Britain) are potatoes cut very thinly, heavily salted and deep fried until crisp. They are eaten as an appetizer, side dish, or snack and can be also made with different flavorings and ingredients.

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As with many other fast foods we don’t know for sure who invented potato chips. What we have is a legend and legend is better than nothing. Story says that potato chips are invented in 19th century in Saratoga Springs, New York. There George Crum, a half black, half Native American, was a cook at Moon's Lake House - local restaurant.

One day (a legend even has a date - 24 August 1853) a costumer came in and ordered fried potatoes butt kept sending them back with a complaint that they were "too thick and soggy" and “not salty enough”. After the n-th time, Crum decided to show the costumer by slicing the potatoes paper thin, frying them until they are brittle and salting them with extra salt. Costumer (about which further part of legend says that it was a railroad magnate Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt) loved them and this type of fried potatoes became very popular. They got the name "Saratoga Chips" which lasted them until the mid-20th century. Legend or not, it is just one story of how thin, deep fried potatoes came to be. Cookbooks like Mary Randolph's “The Virginia House-Wife” from 1824 and “Shilling Cookery for the People” by Alexis Soyer from 1845 have recipes from making them.

Even older William Kitchiner's cookbook “The Cook's Oracle” from 1922 has a recipe that tells how to make fried potatoes from thinly shaved potatoes - so called "Potatoes fried in Slices or Shavings". Mass production of potato chips began in 20th century. The first potato chips factory in United States was Leominster Potato Chip Company opened in 1908 in Leominster, Massachusetts.

After that Mike-sell's Potato Chip Company opened in 1910 in Dayton, Ohio. Potato chips were sold at first in tins and from storefront glass bins. Chips made form glass bins were delivered in barrels which left chips at the bottom stale and crumbled.

Laura Scudder came to an idea to sell potato chips in wax paper bags that had their ends ironed or stapled together. This kept the chips fresh longer and when manufacturers started making bags from cellophane, potato chips became mass market product.

Today, we make chips in plastic bag and fill those bags with nitrogen gas which keeps the chips from getting crushed and prevents fat from oxidizing and going stale. Spud" Murphy, the owner of an Irish chip company Tayto, invented in 1950s developed a technology for adding different tastes to potato chips during manufacture. Accompanied with his employee, Seamus Burke, he made the first chips with tastes: Cheese & Onion, Barbecue, and Salt & Vinegar.

Some food studies showed that chips has great contribution to weight gain and tooth decay. Some manufacturers responded by trying to find recipes that will result in more healthy products.

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