Did you know that Americans eat an average of 110 pounds of potatoes a year per person? It’s the number one vegetable consumed in the United States.
But spuds weren’t always the on top of the vegetable heap.
When the Spanish explorer Francisco Pizzaro brought potatoes back from Peru in 1532, Europeans were not impressed. They wouldn’t touch those lumpy, bumpy things except maybe to toss them to their pigs. And some people were actually afraid of them.
In 1619, potatoes were banned in Burgundy, France because they thought potatoes caused leprosy. Some people believed that they were poisonous because their blossoms are similar to the deadly henbane and belladonna, other members of the Nightshade family of plants.
Eventually Europeans figured out that potatoes wouldn’t kill them, and by the end of the 1700s, taters were tops especially in Germany, Russia, Poland, and Ireland. Immigrants from potato-loving countries brought their recipes with them.
One recipe they didn’t bring was potato chips. Chips are 100% American. They were created at Moon’s Lake House in Saratoga Springs, New York in 1853.
In the most often told story, George Crum, the chef at the restaurant, was a talented, but cranky guy. He did NOT like to be criticized. One day, a customer sent a plate back with the complaint that the fried potatoes were too thick and soggy. Crum decided to make the potatoes so thin and crispy that the customer would think twice about ever sending a dish back again. He sliced the potatoes paper thin, dropped them into the hot oil until they were almost burnt, and sprinkled them with a lot of salt. Crum expected the customer to be furious, instead he ordered more, and the potato chip was born.
The new Saratoga chips, as they were called then, quickly became a local favorite, and are now America’s number one snack food.
Let’s hear a cheer for National Potato Day!
One potato, two potato, three potato, four,
Baked potato, fried potato, mashed potato, more.