Long ago in the year 1853, one Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt, a big
business tycoon , was having dinner at a resort called Saratoga Springs in New York. After eating a few fried potatoes, he sent it back complaining that they were too thick.

The chef, a native-American called George Crum, was apparently miffed at the Commodore’s complaint and decided to give a sarcastic reply. He sliced potatoes paper thin, fried them to a crisp and salted them.
Vanderbilt loved the “crunch potato slices,” as he called them, and the
“Saratoga Chips” became the restaurant’s speciality from that day onwards.

Chip off the Old Block [Illustration by Anup Singh]
Chip off the Old Block [Illustration by Anup Singh]

However, according to the Snack Food Association , the international trade association of (salted) crunchy snack manufacturers, potato chips did not become very popular until 1926 when a Mrs. Scudder invented wax paper potato chip bags at her chip factory.

Every evening, she had women employees take home sheets of waxed paper and iron them into bags. The next day, workers would hand pack chips into the bags, seal the tops with warm irons and deliver them to retailers. Thus, the potato chip bag was born.

Soon after the invention of the potato chip bag, the legacy of Mr. Crum was noticed.

For several decades after their creation, potato chips were largely a
Northern dinner dish. In the 1920s, Herman Lay, a traveling salesman in the South, helped popularize the food from Atlanta to Tennessee. Lay peddled potato chips to Southern grocers out of the trunk of his car, building a business and a name that would become synonymous with the thin, salty snack. Lay’s potato chips became the first successfully marketed national brand, and in 1961 Herman Lay, to increase his line of goods, merged his company with Frito, the Dallas based producer of snack foods.

Today the potato chip, along with burgers and coke, is America’s culinary gift to the world. It is the perfect accompaniment to the other two items. Together they are known as junk food for they pack in a lot of carbohydrates. But their fans still love to gobble them up.

355 words | 3 minutes
Readability: Grade 10 (15-16 year old children)
Based on Flesch–Kincaid readability scores

Filed under: features
Tags: #potatoes

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