Potato Chips -- The carbs you love to hate, the snack of choice for many, the bane of dieters... Next time you are staring in to a bag of chips, crunching down that salty goodness... don't blame yourself. Blame George 'Speck' Crum of Saratoga Springs for inventing Saratoga Chips.
As local legend goes, in 1853, when gentlemen wore tight collars and too many layers of clothing, one wealthy patron - perhaps a little disgruntled from the summer weather - entered Moon's Lake House, a restaurant on the shores of Saratoga Lake in Saratoga Springs. George 'Speck' Crum worked at Moon's as a cook, where his sister Catherine Speck Wicks also worked.
The grumpy patron ordered Moon's Fried Potatoes, their well-known house specialty. At that time, fried potatoes (or French fried potatoes) were commonly served in thick cut slices in the French tradition. The patron found the potatoes to be too thick and soggy. Dissatisfied, he sent them back to the kitchen and requested that they be cut thinner. He was duly served a second portion, and still not satisfied he returned them yet again, insisting that they be cut thinner still. Not particularly receptive to criticism of his cooking, the spirited Mr. Crum obliged by slicing them as paper-thin as he could manage and salting them heavily in an attempt to make them inedible. Deep fried, they became quite crispy and impossible to eat with a fork. Intending to teach the wealthy patron a lesson, the reaction from the diner instead was one of enthusiastic appreciation and a request for a second serving of chips! Soon other diners requested Crum's chips, and so began the illustrious history of "Saratoga Chips", a Moon's Lake House specialty.
Another version of the story claims that Catherine Speck Wicks accidentally dropped slices of potato into hot fat she was preparing for a batch of doughnuts, and when Crum fished it out, he tasted it and decided to put it on the menu as crispy Saratoga Chips.
In 1860, Crum opened his own restaurant in Saratoga Springs on Malta Avenue near Saratoga Lake. Within a few years, he was catering to a large and wealthy clientele that included the Vanderbilts, Jay Gould and Henry Hilton. A Saratoga historian claims in an article published in the Saratoga Springs newspaper, The Saratogian, that the reputation of Saratoga Chips stayed with Moon's and Crum focused on fish and game at his restaurant. The Snack Food Association claims Crum brought his invention to his newly opened restaurant where he placed them in baskets on all the tables, and marketed them in takeout boxes as Saratoga Chips, but never patented or protected his invention. When Crum died in 1914, his obituary stated he was the originator of the Saratoga Chip. However, when his sister Catherine died in 1917, her obituary stated she was the inventor of the Saratoga Chip. This same obituary also claims she first came to Saratoga in 1861, a full eight years after the Chips were purportedly invented.
While one may never know the exact details behind the true creation of potato chips, we do know that the crunchy, salty snacks caught on among diners and were eventually packaged for sale in grocery stores by other creators... and the rest, as they say, is history!
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