It's always fascinating to find out how many myths there are in food history, which seems strange at first glance. After all, food history isn't all that important, is it?
Time and time again we've proven that not to be true here. Food history is important because it is tied to culture, anthropology and history itself. We can learn a lot about the history of a nation by tracing its food history. Foods could be invented out of desperation like many war time or famine foods. They could be invented to save a business, or there are even stories of foods being invented simply out of frustration.
One example of this is that the hamburger may have been invented by a frustrated cook smashing a meatball that was taking too long to cook. Such is also the case with the myth of George Crum and the potato chip.
The story has everything - celebrities, humor and a favorite snack food - which is probably why it was adopted so completely. Here's how it goes, according to Joneschips.com and other sources:
In 1853, a Native American/Black chef at Moon Lake Lodge resort in Saratoga Springs, New York, once found himself cooking for a legendary pain in the butt, Cornelius Vanderbilt. As the story goes, Vanderbilt had complained about the fried potatoes he was served because they were too thick and not crispy enough for his taste.
After Vanderbilt sent them back several times, Crum hatched a plan to get his revenge and sliced the potatoes as thin as he could, fried them into a literal crisp and sent them out. Much to his surprise, they became a hit and Crum's name went down in history.
Though this is a fun story, JSTOR Daily had to go and unwind it for us. It explains that Vanderbilt was touring Europe at the time. The Moons didn't own the restaurant until a year later, and the potatoes had already existed in Saratoga prior to 1853.
A New York Herald article on the Lake House's cook, Eliza (last name unknown), in 1849 marveled at the Lake House's crispy fried potatoes, though other research revealed the chips may have only become famous at the Lake House, and may have been invented elsewhere.
The first mention of Crum in the story apparently dates to 1885, and Vanderbilt's involvement was born from some brilliant advertising by the St. Regis Paper Company as they were printing potato chip packaging 120 years later.
Of course, this is just one variety of chip. Today there are corn chips, pita chips and other chips, each with its own unique history. But you don't expect me to dive into all of them all at once, do you?
I'm sorry, but I'm going to focus on air fryer chips right now because compared to oil fried, oven baked and microwaved, air fryer chips are more consistent, simpler and tasty. These can all be made in the oven; you just need to look up the time and temperatures yourselves.
As for me, I might never fry or bake another chip.
Air Fryer Potato Chips
- 1 potato
- Popcorn salt or other fine salt
- Nonstick, oil-based spray
- Other seasonings (optional)
Spray the inside of the air fryer with nonstick spray. Now slice the potato as thin as you can by hand or on the second thinnest setting on a mandolin slicer. Immediately dunk the slices in water with lemon juice to prevent browning.
Place as many slices as you will be using into a strainer and wash off all of the starches before patting them mostly dry with a paper towel. Place them in a single layer in the bottom of the air fryer and spray the tops with nonstick spray. Sprinkle with fine salt. Fry these in the air fryer for 10-15 minutes at 370 degrees. Once done, transfer them to a bowl and toss with seasonings to taste. Repeat until you have cooked the entire potato.
Air Fryer Zucchini Chips
- 1 small zucchini
- ¼ cup Pecorino Romano or Parmesan, freshly grated
- Parsley to taste
- Garlic salt to taste
Slice the zucchini thin by hand or using the second thinnest setting on a mandolin slicer. Layer the chips in a lightly sprayed air fryer basket and sprinkle them with the cheese. Fry for 12 minutes at 370 degrees or until the cheese is golden and the chips are crisp. Immediately remove them and toss them with parsley and garlic salt.
Air Fryer Kale Chips
- 1 bunch of kale
- Bacon grease, melted but not too hot
- Fine salt, to taste
Break the kale into pieces approximately the size of corn tortilla chips. Toss these in just enough bacon grease to lightly coat them. Try to “massage” the oil onto the leaves without burning yourself. Season with fine salt.
Spread the leaves into a single layer and cook for 4-5 minutes at 375 degrees. You should shake the pan partway through cooking and keep a close eye on them.
Travis Grimler may be reached at 218-855-5853 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/@PEJ_Travis.