Saturday, August 30, 2014

Surprises and The Unintended Invention of Potato Chips

George Crum
Cornelius Vanderbilt was a famous tycoon. First made his name well-known in the ferry industry. He was renowned to be given the title “Commodore” for his good quality of service and his vast ferry business. But when the steam engine dawned, he moved from the sea to land. He invested a lot of his wealth in creating a huge railroad empire. He made a lot of money as well as enemies as a result of his aggressive business tactics. He contributed on the rise of the railroad industry as well as capitalism in America. However, besides business and industry, Vanderbilt was said to have made another surprising contribution. According to legends, he had been instrumental for the creation of one of the most eaten snack in the world – Potato Chips.

The story of potato was a story of irritation, revenge, and an unintended consequence. It began in summer vacation in Saratoga Springs, New York. Saratoga Springs was always mistakenly identified as the historic battlefield during the War of Revolution. But it was not a mistake that it was one of the most well-loved vacation hot spot for the richest and affluent of the New York high society could offer. Among of this richest that enjoyed a good summer vacation in Saratoga Springs was the business magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt.

It was a summer of 1853 when the faithful night for a creation of potato chip happened. Vanderbilt dinned in the restaurant of Moon Lake Lodge. Vanderbilt decided to order a plate of French fries. However, when the fries was served to the table of Vanderbilt, he became disappointed. His “refined” eyes for food kicked him. He asked the waiter to return his plate of fries back to the kitchen because for him, the slices of his fries were too thick. And the plate was brought back to the kitchen.

The chef on the other hand was furious and a little insulted. George Crum, a chef of native and African decent, was the cook in the kitchen.  He was not pleased. A returning plate from a customer was a smear to a face of a cook. It meant that he was not good enough to satisfy the taste of his customers, especially those from the upper class. Nevertheless, the customer was always right.

Crum attempted to redeem himself and his pride. He did what Vanderbilt requested. With all his slicing skills, he tried to slice the potatoes to become thinner as Vanderbilt requested. He fried them, and served it to Vanderbilt in hopes that he would be pleased enough.

However, it was in vain. Vanderbilt irritatingly insisted that his fries were still too thick for his standards. The plate of fires was once again returned to the chef. The chef, meanwhile, became more insulted and furious. He became annoyed by the too much demanding of Vanderbilt.

Crum then decided to annoy Vanderbilt back. He intended to make a revenge out of him. If Vanderbilt wanted thinly sliced potatoes for fires, then he was to get what he requested. Crum used a peeler in order to slice his potatoes into fine paper-thin pieces. He fired them until it was crispy enough that when forked, it would break apart. Adding insult, he salted it very much to the point that Vanderbilt might spit it out.

When the dish was serve it was a moment of truth. Would Vanderbilt be disgusted? Would he get the revenge he wanted? When Vanderbilt saw the dish, he was curious. He forked it and it break up. But he used his hands to eat them. To Crum’s disappointment, Vanderbilt wasn’t sick. In fact, he was delighted and tasted it deliciously. When other customers saw that the Commodore liked the particular dish served to him, they were curious and then ordered the same thing.His instrument of vendetta became an instant hit. The potato chip was born.

Days went by, and his dish became a top order in the town. Later on, the potato dish of Crum was dubbed “the Saratoga Potato Crunch” or in others “Saratoga Potato Chips.” Crum, capitalizing in his success, decided to open his own restaurant. His restaurant’s main feature was his famous chips.

The story of the invention of potato chips was an example of what the famous philosopher Karl Popper call as an unintended consequence. A potato thinly sliced, meant to irritate and to avenge a damaged pride, became, ironically, a new invention that pleased his annoying customer along with many people who sampled it. It made Crum a famous man. He was recognized by many as an iconic Native American, creating a new dish or snack consume by their billions of pounds each year. It was not just a surprising contribution of Vanderbilt’s annoyance that led to the creation of the potato chips, but also a unexpected contribution of a Native American to the diet of the world.

See also:
Cornelius Vanderbilt
Graham Crackers

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