You have probably heard that rumor has it that with Covid vaccinations we are implanted with chips. I keep telling people that I like the “Sasquatch Surprise” flavor of Tim’s Kettle Chips best, though I doubt that we get vaccinated with them. Or that they would help against a virus. Though they certainly make me feel good.
Chips – they are the strangest snack ever, I find. Have you ever tried just eating a single one and then stop at that? Unless you totally detest the flavor, you might find yourself going through an entire small bag before you realize you just ate a dinner’s caloric value in a decadent snack.
Legend has it that renowned chef George Crum from Saratoga Springs, NY, once served Cornelius Vanderbilt French fries. But the fries kept coming back into the kitchen, being called too thick, too limp, too soggy etc. So, finally, Crum just shaved a potato into thin layers and fried these, served them with a sprinkle of salt, – and the “Saratoga Chips” were born. That was allegedly on August 24, 1853. But there are earlier recipes dating back even as early as 1817. So, maybe Crum just turned presentable a recipe that was already kind of popular.
Mass production with such a fragile product must have been quite complex, though. Only in 1910, the first company specialized on potato chips entered that field. It was Mikesell’s Potato Chip Company in Ohio. Though that is contested by Massachusetts-based Leominster Potato Chip Company, founded in 1908. It would take my native Germany until 1951 to mass produce potato chips; the Bahlsen company had Germany’s first production street for it.
At first, potato chips were sold from kegs. Can you imagine the mess? And how stale the bottom ones must have tasted? Some clever salesmen added a bit of salt to their servings. It was a Californian entrepreneur, by the way, Laura Scudder, who invented wax paper bags in 1920 to sell specific amounts of potato chips that kept fresh. Kind of. Only later came cellophane and plastic bags. And mass-produced seasoning.
Of course, we all enjoy the most different kinds of potato chips these days. From batch cooked ones to those produced in continuous processes involving conveyor-belts. Kettle cooked chips are done in batches and are usually thicker; if the starch layer is not washed off before the deep-frying, the result is extra-crisp. Some companies make their chips from potato paste – I taste the difference, and am not a fan.
I grew up with a single flavor in chips: paprika, the only flavor produced in Germany for a long time. Unless you are lucky enough that a German store nearby you carries them, you will have to travel to Germany to find that flavor at all, I guess. I have to admit that I LOVE potato chips, though they are certainly not the heathiest snack ever. A simple boiled potato would be way better. But who could resist the insane number of seasonings reaching from simply salted to gourmet batches of “heirloom cheese” and “dill pickles” or “gyros”, baked, fried, kettle-fried, low-sodium, waffled, ruffled, popped, single-sized to party-sized, limited editions, colorfully or subtly packaged, countless brands competing with each other?! Place a rack by the cash register, and I bet it would sell out by the end of the day if not earlier.
Unfortunately, my “Sasquatch Surprise” favorite flavor was only a seasonal limited edition and has been succeeded by one of those taste-bud searing flavors that don’t attract me at all. I won’t ever understand what’s so wonderful about spicy hot unless you enter a competition on masochism. But that’s another story. I’ll simply have to either entreat Tim’s Kettle Chips Company (or whatever they are called) to continue or re-produce their marvelous Batch number 44 or try something different. Maybe some company could come up with German-style paprika, even?
Anyhow, whether you call them crisps or chips, whether you prefer them made traditionally from potato or, more fashionably, from vegetables or sweet potatoes, you may be sure about one thing: They won’t ever be prescribed by a doctor. Nor vaccinated, for that matter.