Have you ever wondered how your favorite foods were invented? Sure, a lot of the foods we eat are pretty obvious; steak comes from cattle, pork from pigs, chicken from, well, chickens. You don’t need to be Einstein to figure that out. And, the fruits and veggies we eat are pretty obvious as well; you pick them from a tree or plant and eat them. However, there are a lot of foods we love to eat that didn’t exist until someone invented them; that’s right, invented them. Things like potato chips, chocolate chip cookies, even cheeseburgers didn’t exist until someone had either a great idea, or a happy accident that resulted in the creation of one of our favorite foods. Here are a few examples of tasty treats that were invented right here in America:
- Potato Chip – The story behind the potato chip is that in 1853, a chef at a Saratoga Springs restaurant got upset when a patron complained about his French Fries not being crisp enough. To get even, he cut a potato into paper-thin wafers and fried them so long a “chip” could literally stand on its edge, then over-salted it and sent them back to the patron. As you probably guessed, the customer loved them and “Saratoga Chips” or “potato chips “were born
- Cheeseburger – A young cook working at a diner in Southern California in the 1930s accidentally burned a hamburger he was frying for a customer and, rather than throw it away, he hid the charred burger under a slice of cheese. Of course, it tasted wonderful. Soon, everyone wanted a “cheeseburger,” and the rest, as they say, is history.
- Chocolate Chip Cookie –This story tells of a woman named Ruth Wakefield, who ran the Toll House Inn in Massachusetts in the 1930s. One day, she ran out of baking chocolate for her chocolate cookies and decided to break a bar of semi-sweet chocolate in small pieces and add those to her recipe instead. Well, instead of melting like the baking chocolate would have, the semi-sweet chunks just got soft. Needless to say, everyone loved the new “chip’ cookies and Ms. Wakefield became famous. In fact, her Toll House Cookie recipe is still on the wrapper of Nestlé’s chocolate chips today!
- Popsicle – An 11 year old boy named Frank Epperson left a cup of soda pop with a stick in it outside on a very cold night. When he woke up, he found his “frozen pop” and realized that it was delicious. He began making them for his friends, and when he got older and had children of his own, his kids would ask him to make “Pop’s ‘sicle”. Well, seeing how much his kids loved them and thinking other kids would too, Epperson filed for a patent in 1923. He later sold the rights to the Popsicle to the Joe Lowe Company of New York, who eventually sold it to the Good Humor Ice Cream Company.
- Cornflakes – The story goes that the Kellogg brothers were trying to create toasted wheat flakes when they accidentally discovered the process of creating flaked corn cereal. So back in 1906, they began their commercial cereal business and named it the Battle Creek Toasted Corn Flake Company (later Kellogg’s). Ironically, in the early 1920s, a Minnesota doctor stumbled upon a way to make wheat flakes (what the Kellogg’s were originally trying for) and worked with the Washburn Crosby Company to market “Wheaties.” The company later became General Mills, the lifelong rival of Kellogg’s.
- Corn Dogs – This is a tough one because there are many claimants as to who invented the corn dog. As far as we know, corn dogs gained popularity in the 1940s, and the most often cited inventors of this deep fried delight are the Fletcher brothers in Texas, and George and Vera Boyington in Oregon (they called theirs Pronto Pups). Either way, the idea was the same, take a hot dog, pop it on a stick, dip it in some corn meal batter, deep fry it and WHAM, dinner. An easy way to make an easy (and portable) food to eat. Look Ma, no bun…
Of course, humans have been creating food for thousands of years; beer, cheese, wine – and heck, even pretzels have a history of a couple of hundreds of years. We are clearly a clever bunch of mammals who not only grow our own food, but invent it as well (can you imagine having the patent on beer?). One thing is for sure, it’s going to continue to get even better! New technologies paired with food – like liquid nitrogen and ice cream (think “Dippin Dots”) are going to keep this trend going strong, so keep an open mind and a healthy appetite!