- Chips is also a name for French fries in most of the English speaking world outside of North America
Potato chips (North American English) or (potato) crisps (British English) are a snack food made from potatoes cut into very thin slices, deep fried (and recently, baked) until crisp, and then cooled and packaged for sale. The simplest chips are simply fried and salted, but a wide variety of seasonings (mostly made using MSG and herbs or spices) are used to produce various 'seasoned' chips. Potato chips are an important part of snack food market in English-speaking countries.
In British and Irish usage "chips" refers to what North Americans call french fries (as in "fish and chips"). In Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, both forms of potato product are simply known as "chips," as are the larger "home-style" potato chips. Kumara (sweet potato) chips are eaten in New Zealand.
It is believed that the original potato chip recipe was created by George Crum, a chef at the Moon Lake Lodge in Saratoga Springs, New York on August 24, 1853. He was fed up with a customer — by some accounts Cornelius Vanderbilt — who continued to send his fried potatoes back, because they were too thick and soggy. Crum decided to slice the potatoes so thin that they couldn't be eaten with a fork. Against Crum's expectation the guest was ecstatic about the chips. They became a regular item on the lodge's menu under the name "Saratoga Chips". They soon became popular throughout New England.
A mass marketed potato chip could not become popular until the 1920s when the mechanical potato peeler was invented. This product was developed by Herman Lay, a travelling salesman in the southern United States.
Before the airtight sealed bag came along, potato chips were stored in barrels. The chips at the bottom of the barrel were often stale and damp. Then a woman invented the bag by ironing together two pieces of wax paper, thereby creating an airtight seal and keeping the chips fresh until opened.
The potato chip or crisp remained unseasoned, which limited its appeal, until an innovation by the owner of a Irish crisp company called Tayto, who developed a technology to add seasoning in the 1950s. Though he had a small company, consisting almost entirely of his immediate family who prepared the chips, the owner had long proved himself an innovator. After some trial and error, he produced the world's first seasoned potato chips, "Cheese and Onion" and "Salt 'n' Vinegar".
Chips seasoned with salt had been sold previously, but the salt was supplied in a sealed packet inside the chip bag, to be added when required.
His innovation became an overnight sensation in the food industry, with the heads of some of the biggest potato chip companies in the United States heading to the small Tayto company to examine the product and to negotiate the rights to use the new technology. When eventually, the Tayto company was sold, it made the owner and the small family group who had changed the face of potato chip manufacture very wealthy. Companies worldwide sought to buy the rights to Tayto's technique.
That Tayto Crisps innovation changed the whole nature of the potato chip. Later potato chip manufacturers added natural and artificial seasonings to potato chips, with varying degrees of success. A product that had had a large appeal to a limited market on the basis of one seasoning now had a degree of market penetration through vast numbers of seasonings that would have astonished George Crum. The most popular forms of seasoned potato chips include "sour cream and onion," "barbecue," and cheese-seasoned chips. Various other seasonings of potato chips are sold in different locales, including the original "salt and vinegar," produced by Tayto, which remains by far Ireland's biggest manufacturer of crisps.
Another type of potato chip, notably the Pringles brand, is made by extruding or pressing a dough made from ground potatoes into the familiar potato chip shape before frying. This makes chips that are very uniform in size and shape, which allows them to be stacked and packaged in rigid tubes. In America, the de jure term for Pringles is "crisps", but they are rarely referred to as such. Conversely Pringles may be termed "potato chips" in Europe, to distinguish them from traditional "crisps".
Some companies have also marketed baked potato chips as an alternative with lower fat content.
The success of potato chips also gave birth to fried corn chips, with such brands as Fritos, CCs and Doritos dominating the market. "Swamp chips" are similarly made from a variety of root vegetables such as parsnips, rutabagas and carrots. Japanese-style variants include extruded chips-like products made from rice or cassava.
In American cuisine, a whole class of recipes exists that use crushed potato chips, often as one would use seasoned bread crumbs. Recipes include those for cookies, pies, breadings for meatloaves and hamburgers, crumb toppings for casseroles, and in sauces or dips, among others.
A classic of American "White trash" or "Trailer park trash" cuisine is the "Potato Chip Sandwich" made from a base of two slices of white sandwich bread generously spread with mayonnaise. As many potato chips as possible are heaped on one of the slices, then the second slice is placed on top and pushed down hard until all the potato chips are crushed.
Last updated: 10-24-2005 02:00:37