A Short History Of Our Favourite Snack, The Potato Chip!

There is one flavour for literally everyone in the world when it comes to our favourite munchies! Potato chips are THE most popular snack food around the world.  Researches shows that an average American eats 4 pounds of potato chips a year, summing it up to a total of 1.5 billion pounds of potato chips consumed by Americans in 2011.


And it’s just not America, either. Travel the world and find unique(and some really, really weird) flavours of potato chips. Indian Masala? Sour Cream and Onion? Barbeque? Chicken? SQUIRREL? Potato chips got us covered! 

Today, we’re going to break down the long and complicated history of potato chips, but first…

No one can eat just one, wanna bet?

A Short History Of Our Favourite Snack, The Potato Chip!

Remember the tagline of Lay’s potato chips? It’s quite literally them telling us that potato chips are high Hedonic Hyperphagia snacks! What does that mean? Hedonic Hyperphagia is a psychological phenomenon which roughly translates to ‘pleasurable overeating’. These diabolical crisps are designed in such a way that they induce sensory pleasure for us. The perfect amount of fat, carbs, sodium; the perfect texture and the perfect aroma – all lead us to become chippibals!

And now the story…

A Short History Of Our Favourite Snack, The Potato Chip!
Wikimedia Commons / Original publication: Georgs S. Bolster Collection

Crum’s potato chip story might only be a tell-tale.

If you’ve heard about potato chips being born out of the desire to annoy a customer, be assured that this story is not founded on facts. Tale goes that sometime in the 1950s, NY chef George Crum served some potato chips to his customer Vanderbilt, and the latter criticised them as being “too thick”. Shut to criticism as he was, Crum sent out a plate of fried potato shavings to annoy the business tycoon, but the latter fell in love! 

But that’s all talk!

Vanderbilt wasn’t even in the US at that moment and his name didn’t find mention in this story till a hundred years later!

On the other hand, articles started appearing in newspapers in 1849 about a magic potato-fryer woman named Eliza who could make the best chips. EVER. 

So, maybe Crum didn’t invent itz but he sure did popularize this world’s favorite snack!

Potato Chips weren’t patented

A Short History Of Our Favourite Snack, The Potato Chip!

We, who know how tasty these things are, would have got a patent on them. But Crum didn’t. 

When he opened his own diner, known as “Crum’s House”, he did something we wish they did now! He put a basket of perfectly made potato chips on every table, hence making it easily the best snack there was! 

But he didn’t, or should we say ‘couldn’t’ have the rights for it. You see, his father was black, and racist as our ancestors were, they wouldn’t allow him to even apply for a patent. 

Potato chips were a Victorian-era ‘health food’. No kidding

A Short History Of Our Favourite Snack, The Potato Chip!

We know what you’re thinking. Too much fat, too many calories, too much salt. What the heck is healthy about them? 

But that’s not what a 19th C physician named Kitchiner thought. He wrote in a book about nutrition about the correct way to prepare potato chips. This included frying them in pig fat (ancestors, huh?) and sprinkling with salt. What prompted this ultra wrong conception of potato chips by a medical professional? Well, he thought that people pay attention to the quality of their pets’ food more than they do to their own.

A bag of chips

A Short History Of Our Favourite Snack, The Potato Chip!

Weird as it sounds, potato chips didn’t always come in bags. In fact they were served in baskets or tins or other utensils until, wanting the freshness of the chips to be preserved and the packaging to be attractive, Laura Clough Scudder came up with the idea of a bag of chips! She also introduced the manufacturing dates as a guarantee that the chips would only be sold fresh. Bless her heart! This allowed the possibility of mass production and commercialisation!

Lay’s and libido

A Short History Of Our Favourite Snack, The Potato Chip!

You read that right! There was a rumor going around the time Lay’s was becoming a world favourite:  that these particular chips had an aphrodisiac quality. Knowing our world, this rumor spiked the sales of Lay’s and the founder, an enterprising man, didn’t deny it! Lay’s soon became the most sold potato chips in the world(and maybe had some placebo effect, too!).

Potato chips and World War II

A Short History Of Our Favourite Snack, The Potato Chip!

Potato chips were declared to be non-essentials during the World War 2nd, which basically meant their production had to stop. By the time it restarted, there were many factories working to ensure a steady supply for (i) the public that was looking to satisfy its cravings after sweet stuff became rare, and (ii) the soldiers. YES, soldiers had to eat potato chips many times to fill themselves up. There are instances of  whole ship loads of chips being transported for them! Needless to say this popularised potato chips like nothing else!

And now finally the flavours!

A Short History Of Our Favourite Snack, The Potato Chip!

Till the mid 1950s, it was plain or nothing. Sometimes you even had to sprinkle salt on these chips yourself!  Weird to think about it because, in our century pretty much everything has been put on chips!

NOW YOU KNOW! Don’t keep this information to yourself, share the knowledge with your friends!

If you liked reading this article, you will love: Fried Chicken And Waffles: How Did This Crazy Combo Originate?

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