Happy Saturday, Friends!!! I hope you all have plans to get outside and do something fun this weekend. It is gorgeous here, with temps in the 80s, though I hear they are supposed to start climbing later today. Hugh … did your mountain of snow finally melt? Daughter Chris is in Chicago this weekend for a Pipes & Drums band competition, so it’s just me and Miss Goose. We lead a very quiet life when the chatterbox is gone! Goose works on her art, I work on my writing, and we set our phones for an alarm every two hours so we remember to have a brief conversation – it usually consists of “Hi … I love you … are you hungry yet?” “Hi … I love you back … no, but are you?” “Nope … talk to you again in a couple of hours.” And then we return to what we were doing. This weekend, though, we have promised ourselves that we will watch Wreck It Ralph with a big bowl of popcorn. This idea came thanks to Roger, who told me he was chuffed to find that Wreck It Ralph II will be out in November. And if you don’t know what Wreck It Ralph is … Google it!
Every now and then, odd and random bits ‘n pieces of things pass through my email. Most I just toss, but sometimes the subject line catches my eye and I dig a little deeper. One such tidbit came about this week and as soon as I saw it, I thought it might be a fun bit of trivia to share with you for Saturday Surprise! It has a bit of mystery, a bit of history, and a bit of controversy … all surrounding, of all things, the origins of the potato chip (or potato crisp as they call them across the pond).
The story comes courtesy of Tuan Nguyen, writing for ThoughtCo.com
George Crum (born George Speck; July 15, 1824 – July 22, 1914) was a renowned chef who worked at Moon’s Lake House in Saratoga Springs, New York during the mid-1800s. According to culinary legend, Crum invented the potato chip during his work at the restaurant.
The Potato Chip Legend
George Speck was born to parents Abraham Speck and Diana Tull on July 15, 1824. He grew up in upstate New York and was hired at Moon’s Lake House in the 1850s.
Moon’s Lake House was a high-end restaurant that catered to wealthy Manhattan families when Speck was hired. A regular patron of the restaurant, Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt, frequently forgot Speck’s given surname. Vanderbilt often asked waiters to relay various requests to “Crum,” thus giving Speck the name he is now known by.
According to popular legend, the potato chip was invented when a picky customer (Vanderbilt himself, according to some reports) repeatedly sent back an order of French fries, complaining that they were too thick. Frustrated with the customer’s demands, Crum sought revenge by slicing a batch of potatoes paper-thin, frying them to a crisp, and seasoning them with lots of salt. Surprisingly, the customer loved them. Soon enough, Crum and Moon’s Lake House became well-known for their special “Saratoga chips.”
Disputing the Legend
A number of notable accounts have disputed the story of Crum’s culinary innovation.
Recipes for frying thin potato slices had already been published in cookbooks by the early 1800s. Several reports on Crum himself, including a commissioned biography of the chef published in 1893 and his own obituary, were curiously missing any mention of potato chips whatsoever.
Crum’s sister, Kate Wicks, claimed to be the real inventor of the potato chip.
Wick’s obituary, published in The Saratogian in 1924, read, “A sister of George Crum, Mrs. Catherine Wicks, died at the age of 102, and was the cook at Moon’s Lake House. She first invented and fried the famous Saratoga Chips.” This statement is supported by Wicks’ own recollections of the tale, which was published in several periodicals during her lifetime. Wicks explained that she had sliced off a sliver of potato that inadvertently fell into a hot frying pan. She let Crum taste it and his enthusiastic approval led to decision to serve the chips.
Visitors came far and wide to Moon’s Lake House for a taste of the famous Saratoga chips, sometimes even taking a 10-mile trip around the lake just to get to the restaurant. Cary Moon, the owner of Moon’s Lake House, later tried to claim credit for the invention and began producing and distributing potato chips in boxes. Once Crum opened his own restaurant in the 1860s, called Crum’s, he provided every table with a basket of chips.
Crum’s chips remained a local delicacy until the 1920s, when a salesman and entrepreneur named Herman Lay began traveling throughout the south and introducing potato chips to different communities throughout the country.
At that point, Crum’s legacy was overtaken by the mass production and distribution of potato chips on a national scale.
I don’t imagine Mr. Crum ever anticipated the wide variety of (mostly bad) flavours we see on the grocery shelves today!
Now that you are craving potato chips, why not fire up the grill and make some burgers to go with those chips? Whatever you do this weekend, keep safe and enjoy life! And to send you on your way, how about a little song … one of my old favourites that can bring a smile to faces young and old!