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Black America Library Series

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Our Visual Library Series serves as a powerful antidote to attacks on diversity, Black history studies, Critical Race Theory (CRT), and books by Black Authors by providing a comprehensive perspective on American History.

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They highlight the often-overlooked contributions and experiences of Black individuals and organizations, promoting inclusivity and challenging stereotypes.

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They foster a deep understanding of the Black American Experience, encouraging open dialogue and ultimately promoting a society where diversity and racial justice are celebrated, not attacked.

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  • Writer's pictureT. Brookshire

From Complaint to Crisp: The Story of George Crum's Saratoga Chips



George Crum's early years were marked by his diverse background. He was born to a Huron Native-American mother and an African-American father who worked as a jockey. As a young man, Crum worked as a mountain guide and trapper in the rugged terrain of the Adirondack Mountains in New York.


In 1853, a George Crum assumed the role of head chef at Cary Moon's Lake House, an upscale establishment nestled on the shores of Lake Saratoga, New York. This serene lakeside retreat catered to wealthy Manhattan families seeking respite from the city's hustle and bustle.


The Catalyst

One fateful evening, as Crum prepared the evening's dinner for the esteemed guests, his intention was to craft a batch of French fries, a popular side dish of the time. However, an unexpected complaint from one of the diners altered the course of culinary history. The guest, none other than Cornelius Vanderbilt, a prominent steamship owner, voiced his displeasure, asserting that the French fries were excessively thick.





Annoyed by the complaint, Crum sliced the potatoes as thinly as possible and immersed them in hot oil, creating paper-thin, crisped potato slices. He would even sprinkle a dash of salt to complete the prank. To his astonishment, Vanderbilt, upon tasting this novel creation, was thrilled. Crum's crispy potato rounds, unlike anything seen before, became an instant hit at Moon's Lake House.


Crum's inventive culinary twist did not go unnoticed. It quickly earned a permanent place on the menu at Moon's Lake House, captivating the palates of its affluent clientele. The dish, originally intended as a response to criticism, was now a star attraction. Crum's crispy potato slices gained fame under the moniker "Saratoga Chips." Eventually, their popularity grew to the extent that they were packaged and sold locally, then eventually throughout New England





Failure to Capitalize

In 1860, he opened his own restaurant on Malta Avenue in Saratoga Lake, aptly named "Crum's Place." At every table, patrons were treated to his famous Saratoga Chips as appetizers. The restaurant thrived, becoming a beloved culinary destination for locals and visitors alike. Regrettably, despite his culinary brilliance, George Crum never patented his Saratoga Chips or sought to distribute them beyond the confines of his restaurant. This would carry significant consequences for Crum as other cooks were were quick to capitalize on the popularity of the Saratoga Chips.


In 1895, William Tappendon made an early attempt to introduce potato chips to local grocery stores. By 1921, the Hanover Home Potato Chip Company was founded, marking the beginning of a broader distribution of potato chips. Laura Scudder, in 1926, revolutionized packaging by placing potato chips in wax paper bags, pioneering the concept of the modern chip bag.


Lay's Potato Chips Launch

Herman Lay's establishment of Lay's in 1932 in Nashville, Tennessee, further propelled the potato chip industry to unprecedented height and transformed it into a global snack phenomenon.


Legacy

George Crum closed his restaurant in 1890 and passed away in 1914 at the remarkable age of 90. Although he didn't achieve financial prosperity from his invention, he left behind a culinary legacy that would go on to even greater fame.




Today, more than 150 years after its creation, the potato chip is a beloved snack enjoyed by millions around the world. Americans alone consume approximately 1.5 billion pounds of potato chips each year. George Crum, born George Speck, is an unsung hero behind one of the world's most cherished and timeless indulgences—the potato chip. His story is a testament to the profound influence of unexpected culinary creations and the enduring legacy of those who dare to innovate in the kitchen.


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