Behold … The Potato Chip

A potato chip or crisp is a thin slice of potato, deep fried or baked until crisp. Potato chips serve as an appetizer, side dish, or snack. Commercial varieties are packaged for sale, usually in bags, sometimes in tubes. The simplest chips of this kind are just cooked and salted, but the chip manufacturers can add a wide variety of seasonings (mostly made using herbs, spices, and various cheeses. Chips are a very important part of the snack food market in English-speaking countries and many other Western nations.

There is little consistency in the English speaking world for names of fried potato cuttings. North American English uses “chips” for the above mentioned dish – this term is also used in continental Europe – and sometimes ‘crisps’ for the same made from batter, and ‘French fries’ for the hot crispy batons with a soft core. In the United Kingdom and Ireland, ‘crisps’ are the brittle slices eaten at room temperature and ‘chips’ refer to that hot dish (as in “fish & chips”). In Australia, New Zealand and some parts of South Africa, both forms of potato product are simply known as ‘chips’, as are the larger “home-style” potato chips. Sometimes the distinction is made between “hot” chips (French fried potatoes) or “packet” chips or “tube” chips.

Non-potato based chips also exist. Kumara (sweet potato) chips are eaten in New Zealand and Japan; parsnip crisps are available in the United Kingdom. There are also regional variations. For example, in parts of the North of England, fried sliced potatoes are sometimes called (“flakies”). India is famous for a large number of localized chips shops, selling not only potato chips but also other varieties such as plantain chips, yam chips and even carrot chips.

It is believed that the original potato chip recipe was created by Native American/African American chef George Crum, at Moon’s Lake House near Saratoga Springs, New York, on August 24, 1853. Crum decided to slice the potatoes so thin that they couldn’t be eaten with a fork, nor fried normally in a pan, so he decided to stir-fry the potato slices. These new fangled chips became a regular item on the lodge’s menu under the name “Saratoga Chips.” They soon became popular throughout New York and New England. Eventually, potato chips spread beyond chef-cooked restaurant fare and began to be mass produced for home consumption.

Before the airtight sealed bag or the chips tube was developed, chips were stored in barrels or tins. The chips at the bottom were often stale and damp. Then Laura Scudder invented the bag by ironing together two pieces of waxed paper, thereby creating an airtight seal and keeping the chips fresh until opened. In 1934 Akron, Ohio, potato chip maker K.T. Salem was the first to distribute chips in glassine waxed paper bags. Today, chips are packaged in plastic bags, with nitrogen gas blown in prior to sealing to lengthen shelf life, and provide protection against crushing. No matter what, no matter when, you still can’t eat just one.