Crisps are a national institution, and nearly everyone has a particular packet that they love to snack on and is part of many of our shops for discount food online.
What many people might not know is just how old and how much the way we eat them has changed over the past 104 years.
Here is the story about the true history of crisps.
The Legend Of Saratoga Springs
One of the most popular stories about crisps is that they were invented in a restaurant in Saratoga Springs, New York, by chef George Crum.
So the legend goes, on 24th August 1853, a particularly aggravating customer at Moon’s Lake House kept sending back his french fries, complaining that they were not salty enough, too thick and too soggy.
After several returns, Mr Crum got annoyed enough to slice some potatoes very thin, flash fry them to a crisp and throw lots of salt onto them, to perhaps prove how unreasonable the customer was.
To his shock, however, the customer absolutely loved them, and Mr Crum made them a menu item known as “Saratoga Chips”.
This story was recalled many times over the early 20th century and was even part of an advertising campaign for wax paper company St. Regis, who claimed the customer was railroad magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt.
This is a fascinating story but unfortunately is not entirely true. George Crum was a highly renowned chef when the incident allegedly happened, and it wasn’t brought up until after he died in 1914.
However, Catherine Wicks, George Crum’s sister, who also worked at Moon’s Lake House, is believed to have created the Saratoga crisps by accidentally chipping a piece of potato into a frying pan.
In either case, the true invention of crisps happened at least 30 years before this.
The True History Of Crisps
William Kitchiner, the inventor of the telescope, was also a budding cook and would write a unique cookbook known as the Cook’s Oracle.
Along with containing recipes for no less than eleven kinds of ketchup, it also contained recipe No. 104, “Potatoes fried in Slices or Shavings”, which is believed to be the earliest reference to crisps.
The book was a bestseller and highly influential, with similar recipes going under the name Pommes de Terre Frites and citing Kitchiner as the source of the recipe.
Regardless, George Crum did manage to popularise crisps in the United States, and Cary Moon, the owner of his restaurant quickly claimed credit for it, selling them as a takeaway dish. These were first sold in paper cones, before being packaged in boxes.
This is where crisps started to move away from a restaurant dish and became a mass-produced snack.
The first flavoured crisps were innovated by Smiths, who added a small packet of salt in a bag of crisps to season them.
In the 1950s, Joe “Spud” Murphy, owner of Tayto, created a technology that allowed crisps to be seasoned during mass production, leading to the first two flavours of crisps ever. Naturally, they were Salt & Vinegar and Cheese & Onion.