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Potato chips, originally known as Saratoga chips, originated in 1853 when Chef George “Speck” Crum tried to please a disgruntled diner at Moon’s Lake House in Saratoga Springs, New York. The unhappy customer supposedly sent his plate of fried potatoes back to the kitchen, complaining they were too thick and soggy. Crum’s attempt to fry potatoes so thin and crisp that they couldn’t be skewered with a fork created a new craze.
Whether the displeased patron sent back the fried potatoes more than once demanding that they be thinner and crisper each time is legend. Crum, of Native American and African American descent, is said to have sliced the potatoes thinner after each request and added substantial amounts of salt. Crum’s sister, Catherine Speck Wick, also worked at Moon’s Lake House and some theories about the origin of Saratoga chips revolve around her.
Some histories say that Wick accidentally dropped potato slices into hot fat meant for frying donuts; when her brother Crum tasted the accidental result, Saratoga Chips, he was pleased. No matter which tale is accurate, Crum opened his own restaurant in Saratoga Springs in 1860. There he served fish, game and his original Saratoga chips to various wealthy customers. Crum, however, never patented his Saratoga chips, which became quite popular in the New England and New York areas.
Of course no matter the origins, potato chips, or Saratoga chips, created a life all their own. In the 1880s, a recipe for Saratoga Chips, identified as Saratoga potatoes, was published in Buckeye Cookery and Practical Housekeeping. Potato chips became mass produced in the 20th century. One of the first producers of potato chips was the Mike-Sells company, founded in 1910 in Ohio. Prior to the familiar bags that are now used for potato chip storage and sale, chips were stored in tins or barrels.