America’s love affair with potato chips began more the 150 years ago when an enterprising chef at Moon’s Lake House in Saratoga Spring, New York, sent thick slices of potato on a historic salty plunge into the deep-fryer and unwittingly changed the snack food business forever.
Saratoga Springs was (and is) a small, upstate town, but plenty of well-heeled New Yorkers relaxed there during the summer in the 1850s, which may account for the spotlight shone on the early chip. “You begin to eat fried potatoes so soon as you arrive at the lake; you continually eat them til you depart; and I have heard of ladies who have taken French cambric pocket-handkerchiefs full of fried potatoes home with them, and kept them under their pillows,” British journalist George Augustus Sala wrote in The Daily Telegraph. (He was reporting on American manners and customs during the Civil War.)
“I have seen them eaten by ladies with lavender kid gloves on,” he continued, “and they are so crisp and croquant and so clean-looking, that you generally dispense with a plate while eating them at dinner, and keep a pile of fried potatoes on the table-cloth by your side. They are eaten with fish, they are eaten with game, they are eaten with sherry-coblers, and they are eaten with ice-creams.”
Reports appeared in The New York Times and The Philadelphia Inquirer, and the news traveled fast. In 1874, Chicago’s Pomeroy’s Democrat ran an article on eating-house slang in which the reporter learned that “Saratoga” had become kitchen code for orders of deep-fried potatoes. Maybe that should be the next big flavor to hit the market: The Saratoga chip.
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