Potatoes are the second most eaten food on the planet. Some people like mashed potatoes, while others prefer eating French fries. Most people love snacking on crunchy potato chips. There are many controversies regarding who invented the potato chip; the most common one involving George Crum & Moon’s Lake House.
1. Legend of Potato Chips
George Crum’s original name was George Speck. He was born to African-American parents, Abraham and Diana Speck on July 15th, 1824. He was brought up in upstate New York. Speck was hired at the Moon’s Lake House, a popular restaurant in the resort town of Saratoga Springs, N.Y. during the mid-1800s. (Read 6 Most Liberal Cities in the United States)
This restaurant catered to high-end, wealthy families of Manhattan. Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt was a regular patron of the restaurant and used to frequently forget Speck’s name. So, he began asking waiters to forward requests to Crum, thereby giving him the name he is known by. One of Crum’s specialties was thickly cut French fries that were eaten with a fork.
According to the culinary legend, potato chips were invented at the restaurant when one particularly picky customer kept sending back an order of French fries, complaining that they were too thick. Crum got frustrated with the customer’s demand and to seek revenge, he sliced up a batch of potatoes into paper-thin slices, fried them in oil, and seasoned them with lots of salt. To his surprise, the customer loved the dish. In this way, Crum became the one who invented the potato chip. Since then, George Crum & Moon’s Lake House have been known for their Saratoga chips. Moreover, some rumors say that this picky customer was none other than Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt. (See Are Potatoes Vegetables or Fruits?)
2. Dispute Over Crum’s Legend
Many notable accounts have disputed the culinary legend saying that Crum was not the original inventor of potato chips.
- It has been said that recipes for frying paper-thin potato slices in oil have been mentioned in numerous cookbooks since the early 1800s.
- Moreover, many reports on Crum himself, including the 1983 commissioned biography, did not mention anything about the potato chips.
- Also, Kate Wicks, Crum’s sister claimed to be the one who invented the potato chip. According to her obituary published in The Saratogian in 1924, Wicks worked at the Moon’s Lake House, and it was she who fried and invented the Saratoga chips. The statement was also supported by her recollections of the story which were published in several periodicals during her lifetime. Wicks explained that a potato slice had accidentally fallen into a hot frying pan, which she had Crum try. His approval of the chips resulted in the decision to offer the potato chips to the guests. (See Do French Fries Really Come From France?)
3. George Crum’s Invention & Legacy
Visitors came from all around to experience Crum’s legendary potato chips at the Moon’s Lake House. They sometimes, even took a 10-mile trip around the lake just to visit the restaurant.
- Cary Moore, who was the owner of Moon’s Lake House attempted to claim the credit by stating he was the one who invented the potato chip. He even began producing and selling potato chips in boxes.
- Later, when George Crum opened his restaurant in the 1860s in Malta, New York, he provided every table with a basket of potato chips.
- George Crum’s chips remained a local delicacy until Herman Lays traveled to the South and introduced potato chips to all the communities down there. Eventually, the Crum’s legacy was taken over by mass production and distribution of potato chips throughout the nation. (See Who Invented Pizza?)