The Curious History of Potato Chip

Brandon Tensley wrote . . . . . . . . .

When Covid-19 forced people to stay home, many of us found solace in a snack: potato chips. The crispy treats enjoyed around a $350 million increase in sales from 2019 to 2020. When the chips are down, it seems, Americans gobble them up.

Any search for the origins of this signature finger food must lead to George Crum (born George Speck), a 19th-century chef of Native and African American descent who made his name at Moon’s Lake House in the resort town of Saratoga Springs, New York. As the story goes, one day in 1853, the railroad and shipping magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt was eating at Moon’s when he ordered his fried potatoes be returned to the kitchen because they were too thick. Furious with such a fussy eater, Crum sliced some potatoes as slenderly as he could, fried them to a crisp and sent them out to Vanderbilt as a prank. Rather than take the gesture as an insult, Vanderbilt was overjoyed.

Other patrons began asking for Crum’s “Saratoga Chips,” which soon became a hit far beyond Upstate New York. In 1860, Crum opened his own restaurant near Saratoga known as Crum’s House or Crum’s Place, where a basket of potato chips sat invitingly on every table. Crum oversaw the restaurant until retiring over 30 years later; in 1889, a New York Herald writer called him “the best cook in America.” Crum died in 1914, but today’s astounding variety of potato chips, from cinnamon-and-sugar Pringles to flamin’ hot dill pickle Lay’s, are a tribute to the man American Heritage magazine called “the Edison of grease.”

Still, historians who have peeled the skin off this story have hastened to point out that Crum was not the sole inventor of the chip, or even the first. The earliest known recipe for chips dates to 1817, when an English doctor named William Kitchiner published The Cook’s Oracle, a cookbook that included a recipe for “potatoes fried in slices or shavings.” And in July 1849, four years before Crum supposedly dissed Vanderbilt, a New York Herald reporter noted the work of “Eliza,” also, curiously, a cook in Saratoga Springs, whose “potato frying reputation” had become “one of the prominent matters of remark at Saratoga.” Yet scholars are united in acknowledging that Crum popularized the chip. It was in Saratoga that the chips came into their own—today you can buy a version of Crum’s creations under the name Saratoga Chips—and in America that they became a culinary and commercial juggernaut.

For a long time, chips remained a restaurant-only delicacy. But in 1895 an Ohio entrepreneur named William Tappenden found a way to keep them stocked on grocery shelves, using his kitchen and, later, a barn turned factory in his backyard to make the chips and deliver them in barrels to local markets via horse-drawn wagon. Countless other merchants followed suit.

It would take another bold innovator to ignite the revolution, the result of which no birthday party or football game or trip to the office vending machine would ever be the same. In 1926, Laura Scudder, a California businesswoman, began packaging chips in wax-paper bags that included not only a “freshness” date but also a tempting boast—“the Noisiest Chips in the World,” a peculiarly American marketing breakthrough that made a virtue of being obnoxious. The snack took another leap the following year, when Leonard Japp, a Chicago chef and former prizefighter, began to mass-produce the snack—largely, the rumor goes, to serve one client: Al Capone, who allegedly discovered a love for potato chips on a visit to Saratoga and thought they would sell well in his speak-easies. Japp opened factories to supply the snack to a growing list of patrons, and by the mid-1930s was selling to clients throughout the Midwest, as potato chips continued their climb into the pantheon of America’s treats; later, Japp also created what can be considered the modern iteration by frying his potatoes in oil instead of lard.

When Lay’s became the first national brand of potato chips in 1961, the company enlisted Bert Lahr, famous for playing the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz, as its first celebrity spokesman, who purred the devilish challenge, “Betcha can’t eat just one.”

Americans today consume about 1.85 billion pounds of potato chips annually, or around 6.6 pounds per person. The U.S. potato chip market—just potato chips, never mind tortilla chips or cheese puffs or pretzels—is estimated at $10.5 billion. And while chips and other starchy indulgences have long been criticized for playing a role in health conditions such as obesity and hypertension, the snack industry has cleaned up its act to some extent, cooking up options with less fat and sodium, from sweet potato chips with sea salt to taro chips to red lentil crisps with tomato and basil.

Still, for many Americans, the point of chips has always been pure indulgence. Following a year of fast-food buzz, last October Hershey released the most sophisticated snack mashup since the yogurt-covered pretzel: Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups stuffed with potato chips. Only history can judge whether this triple-flavored calorie bomb will be successful. But more than a century and a half after Crum’s peevish inspiration, the potato chip isn’t just one of our most popular foods but also our most versatile.

Source: Smithsonian Magazine


U.K. Company Introduces the World’s First Carbon-Neutral Cheese

Omari Allen wrote . . . . . . . . .

Few foods share as popular of a consensus around the world as cheese. With countless varieties, there’s definitely a cheese made specifically for your taste buds. Cheddar, born from a village of the same name in Somerset, New England, has just evolved into its next form thanks to Wyke Farms.

Wyke Farms is the UK’s largest independent producer of cheese and renewable energy. By taking one small step for cheese, one giant leap for cheese kind — and using their award-winning Ivy’s Reserve Vintage Cheddar — Wyke Farms has created the world’s first carbon-neutral cheese.

Put simply, carbon neutral means having a balance between emitting carbon and absorbing carbon from the atmosphere. In order to achieve neutrality, Wyke Farms worked closely with Carbon Trust, the world’s leading independent certification body for carbon footprints. A neutral status requires PAS 2060 certification to qualify. The PAS 2060 is internationally recognized and sets specifications for carbon neutrality.

Wyke Farm’s Managing Director, Rich Clothier highlights the company’s efforts:

“This has been a 12-year journey for us. We started our ‘100% Green’ strategy in 2010 when we made a commitment to energy independence and generating all of our gas and electric from renewables. Since then, we have invested in our knowledge base across this business and on farm driving environmental improvement year on year. Ivy’s Reserve is a world first and an industry shake-up. This will continue to be our focus in the years ahead as we push for more net positive improvements.”

Aside from the benefits to our environment, Wyke Farm’s new carbon-neutral cheese still retains its award-winning flavor. Using wood, Ivy’s Reserve is matured for 18 months, making it complex, slightly sweet and nutty.

Source: Food Beast

What’s for Lunch?

One-plate Set Lunch at Vegan Restaurant F in Kyoto, Japan

The price is 1,500 yen (plus tax).

Healthy Living Could Offset Genetics and Add Years Free of Heart Disease

Laura Williamson wrote . . . . . . . . .

People who follow seven rules for healthy living – such as staying physically active and eating a healthy diet – could offset a high genetic risk for heart disease, according to new research that suggests it could mean as many as 20 extra years of life free of heart disease.

The study, published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation, found people with high cumulative genetic risk scores for heart disease could dramatically lower that risk if they adhered to seven lifestyle modifications, called Life’s Simple 7. In addition to eating a heart-healthy diet and moving more, this includes not smoking, maintaining an appropriate weight, and keeping blood glucose, cholesterol and blood pressure levels under control.

The findings are not the first to suggest lifestyle can give a person with high genetic risk a winning edge against heart disease, but they are the first to use a new genetic risk tool to show how much disease-free living a person might gain by taking steps to reduce that risk, said lead study author Natalie Hasbani, a doctoral candidate and graduate research assistant at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.

“It’s important to communicate these risks in a way that is truly impactful,” she said, “to put it in terms of what the information can do for me.” Translating risk reduction into an absolute measure – years lived free of disease – is something more typically done in cancer treatment research, she said. “The hope is that hearing these numbers can convince people to change their behaviors.”

This was the first study to use the tool to predict lifetime risk for heart disease and the number of years both Black and white adults might live free of it if they adhered to a set of healthy lifestyle guidelines.

Polygenic risk scores are a relatively new tool that includes all of a person’s genetic information rather than individual genes associated with a disease. The scoring is based on the total number of variants that increase heart disease risk found in a person’s genetic code, based on studies that compare the genes of people who have the disease with those who don’t.

The study calculated heart disease risk for 8,372 white adults and 2,314 Black adults age 45 and older. Overall, it found the risk for developing heart disease during a person’s remaining lifetime ranged from 16.6% for those who practiced the healthiest lifestyles to 43.1% for those with the least healthy lifestyles. People with high polygenic risk scores could lower their risk for heart disease by up to 50% by also scoring high on following the healthy lifestyle recommendations, compared to their high genetic risk peers who didn’t have healthy lifestyles.

The impact of a healthy lifestyle varied by race. For white adults at high genetic risk, living an ideal lifestyle offered 20.2 more years of heart disease-free living compared to those with the least healthy lifestyles. But Black adults at high risk for heart disease were only able to gain 4.5 disease-free years by living a healthy lifestyle.

However, polygenic risk scoring relies on data culled largely from people of European descent. That means it is less reliable when used to predict risk for Black adults and others of non-European descent whose DNA are not well represented in the data pool, the researchers said.

“We need larger genetic association studies in Black adults if we’re going to do better in summarizing their risk,” said the study’s senior author Paul de Vries, assistant professor at the School of Public Health of the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.

In a 2021 scientific statement, the AHA called for greater inclusion of people from diverse ethnicities and ancestry in medical research to create more accurate tools for identifying genetic risk for disease in these groups. Efforts are now underway to collect that data, said Dr. Donald Lloyd-Jones, the AHA’s president and chair of the department of preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.

In the meantime, “applying (polygenic risk scores) to someone who is African American or Asian just doesn’t work very well,” he cautioned. “It has the potential to create real problems with health disparities until we get better data.”

Polygenic risk scores may be most useful when used to identify people under the age of 40 who carry a high genetic risk for heart disease and don’t know it, Lloyd-Jones said. Decisions about whether someone should take medications such as statins to reduce heart disease risk currently are based upon whether they are likely to develop heart disease within 10 years, which is not typically the case for someone in their 30s but might be for someone with high genetic risk.

“We could be missing opportunities to start treatment earlier when it might have a bigger impact,” he said. “But there’s not a lot of value in genetic risk scores to date for older people. Once people reach middle age, their personal health behaviors tend to matter a lot more than whatever genes they were born with.”

The main message of this study, Lloyd-Jones said, is that “while family history or genetics are important, they don’t determine your fate. If you are at high risk, you can lower it by pursuing a healthy lifestyle. Likewise, if you are at lower risk, you can worsen your situation by not controlling behaviors.”

Source: American Heart Association

Beet Risotto


2 red beets
2-1/2 cups sodium-reduced vegetable broth
2 tbsp butter
3 shallots, chopped
2 tsp chopped fresh thyme V/3 CUPS arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
3/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp each salt and pepper
4 tsp lemon juice
2 tsp olive oil
2 cups chopped beet greens (about 1 bunch)


  1. Wrap each beet in foil. Bake in 400°F oven until tender, about 1 hour. Let cool enough to handle. Peel and dice to make 1-1/2 cups.
  2. While beets are cooling, in small saucepan, bring broth and 1-1/2 cups water to boil. Reduce heat to low and keep warm.
  3. In large skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Cook shallots, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add thyme and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add rice, cook, stirring to coat and toast grains, about 1 minute.
  5. Pour in wine. Cook, stirring, until most of the liquid is absorbed, about 1 minute.
  6. Add broth mixture, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring after each addition until most of the liquid is absorbed before adding more, about 18 minutes total. (Rice should be loose and creamy yet still slightly firm in centre.)
  7. Stir in beets, 1/2 cup of the Parmesan and all but pinch each of the salt and pepper. Remove from heat. Stir in lemon juice.
  8. While risotto is cooking, in nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Cook beet greens, stirring occasionally, until wilted, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining salt and pepper.
  9. Top risotto with beet greens and remaining Parmesan before serving

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Source: Mediterranean Flavours

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