Not only is March 14th Pi Day, but it is also National Potato Chip Day. Time to celebrate America’s #1 snack!
A quick history behind potato chips is that they started out as “Saratoga chips” in the 1850s. An unhappy customer at a restaurant kept sending his potatoes back to the kitchen, claiming they were too thick and soggy. George Crum, the chef at the time, took it upon himself to slice the potatoes as thin as he possibly could and fried them until they were crisp. Surprisingly, the customer was finally satisfied with his order. The new creation became a regular item on the menu known as “Saratoga Chips”.
There are also cookbooks from the 1800s such as Shilling Cookery for the People by Alexis Soyer and The Virginia House-Wife by Mary Randolph that shows potatoes being thinly sliced and fried in grease, but it is unknown whether they were to turn out crispy or not.
By the late 1800s, Saratoga chips became an item on trains, in hotel restaurants, and on food carts. Grocers caught on and began to make the chips to sell in larger batches. They were shipped by wagon or barrel to other grocers and restaurants and sold privately to families by the pound with specific baking instructions for fresh, crispy perfection.
In 1910, Mike-sell’s Potato Chip Company was founded in Dayton, Ohio. They claim to be the oldest potato chip company in the country. However, there is a bit of competition with Tri-Sum Potato Chips out of New England, who claims they are the country’s first potato chip manufacturer beginning in 1908.
The most well-known potato chip brand today is Lay’s. Interestingly enough, Herman W. Lay began selling his first chips in the back of his car in the 1930s while he was still working as a traveling salesman. Lay’s became one of the first snack brands ever to advertise on TV in 1944. Their first celebrity spokesperson was Bert Lahr, who played the Cowardly Lion in the classic film The Wizard of Oz.
There are now more than 200 flavors of potato chips across a wide variety of brands. Find your favorite or try a new one that you haven’t had before in honor of National Potato Chip Day!