It’s March 14th ladies and gentlemen. Know what that means? (No peeking at the title of this post!). Well, mathematical genius Albert Einstein, actor Michael Caine and comedian/actor Billy Crystal were born on this day but who cares right? I am talking about NPCD and no, not the National Association of Parish Catechetical Directors OR Narcissistic Personality Complex Disorder… this is National Potato Chip Day. Why does this concern you? We’ve all eaten a potato chip at some point and time and just like the birthplace of our beloved Barack Obama you want to know where potato chips came from. Now…the prestigious invention of this event happened long ago… in a galaxy far, far away… no wait. I think I’m getting my wires crossed. Allow me to start over.
(Based on a true story) The year was 1853 and the day was August 24th (the reason why we celebrate NPCD on March 14th we will never know but most likely for commercial marketing reasons). The evening began inauspiciously, dark, as usual, and in all other ways your average night… who could have predicted that it would be the night George Crum (some believe he was called George Speck but I’ve heard it both ways) would invent the crispy, salty goodness that is the potato chip.
George was a chef at an elegant resort (the McDonalds of their time I am told) in Saratoga Springs, New York. He was already slightly upset at having to work the dinner shift, meaning he would miss CSI for the third consecutive week and to make it worse it was Food Critic Night. Things only went downhill when his order of French-Fried Potatoes was rejected by the critic for being “too thick”. George was a Native American Indian and had worked his whole life with one goal in mind; to become a world class chef. Rejection was too much to bear. George’s eyes hazed over and a wave of memories enveloped him…
“George was eight. He had just killed his first Gecko Lizard, a rarity in the state of New York. He thoroughly understood the definition of vegetarian as an indigenous word meaning very simply “Can’t hunt.” George looked down at the limp, green reptile laying on the rock in front of him. With precise, almost surgical movements he went into action like a ninja, throwing together dashes of curry, sand, water and lizard and after 64 days of baking in the sun… it was ready.”
“He let his tribe experience it first but soon Indians from hundreds of miles around were flocking to taste the Gecko goodness. Obviously, with such vast numbers, the portion of each was small but not one left without saying it was the best microcosm of lizard flesh they had ever tasted (realistically, George’s father was the Chief and enforced that last sentence to the letter). The results (however tainted) were enough to commit George to a lifetime of cookery…”
George returned from his trip down memory lane and back to the issue at hand, beginning to ponder how to deal with the Food Critic. Spitting, dirty dishwater, poison and many other (unmentionable) choices came to mind but in the end he decided on a much more sinister option… George Crum was going to do something unheard of. After much deliberation he decided to slice the potatoes so incredibly thin and bake them so crispy as to make them unable to be skewered by the diner’s fork! It was pure diabolical genius!
“That will teach him!” thought George. “Ha… how dare he insult the King of Cooks! The Sultan of Simmering! The Zohan of…” He decided to put that last phrase in the mental compartment marked “Unsolved” along with why Yankee Doodle named his feather Macaroni, if mute people can burp and his quest to find the first person to look at a cow and say, “I think I’ll squeeze these dangly things here and drink what comes out.”
As George put the finishing touches on his devilish dinner he felt a vengeful satisfaction welling up inside him. It was ready. He slowly opened his mouth and uttered those fateful words….
What happened next took days (and much shock therapy) for George to completely understand. Within minutes after the order first went out, a jubilant parade of both customers and waiters swarmed into the kitchen. At their head was the food critic whose order had been redone. “What do you call that extraordinary potato creation?” the critic queried. George was caught so off guard he let drop a swear word from his mouth which the crowd around him mistakenly interpreted as “Oh Chips.”
George found himself being lifted on to the shoulders of the happy mob and out into the streets to the joyful chant of “Chips! Chips! Chips! Chips!” It was not until later, after the paparazzi had cleared and the camera’s stopped flashing that he realized what he had done… August 24th, 1853. The day George Crum invented the potato chip. March 14th, 2011. The day we celebrate his genius.