Jules has a thing about potato chips
“That old girl is a girl after our own heart” was the word from Jules Catering, after we screened this one-minute vintage television commercial for Scudder’s Potato Chips:
“We have a lot in common with Laura Scudder. She’s particular about her potato chips, we’re particular about our potato chips. We’re like Goldilocks. We want our chips to sound and taste and look just right.”
Of course Jules and Laura Scudder aren’t alone in being particular about fried potatoes.
Do you know how potato chips were inadvertently invented in Saratoga Springs, New York? Have you heard about “Commodore” Cornelius Vanderbilt mixing it up with Chef George Crum?
Cantankerous chef “wreaks culinary vengeance” on persnickety diner
Potato chip historians credit George Crum with inventing the potato chip at the Moon Lake Lodge in Saratoga Springs, New York, in 1853. This is a point of fact.
Rumor has it that Crum was provoked into this innovation, when multi-millionaire shipping and railroad magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt, who summered in Saratoga Springs, rejected a plate of fried potatoes prepared by Crum because they were “too thick and soggy” and “not salty enough.”
Vanderbilt sent Crum’s potatoes back to the kitchen, not once, but twice!
Then, according to one report, Crum’s response was to “wreak culinary vengeance” on the Commodore by slicing the potatoes paper thin, frying them to a crisp, and then salting “the living daylights out of them.”
When, for the second time, Crum slammed down the plate before Vanderbilt, this tough-to-please customer “tried one, smiled, then helped himself to the rest.”
In this way Crum inadvertently invented what he called Saratoga Chips.
George Crum’s potato chips were an instant hit.
Potato chip variables
“George Crum was lucky,” Jules observed, “because simple as it may seem, consistently making a light and crispy potato chip isn’t so easy. We’re longtime pros, but even for us it required a good deal of experimentation.”
“For one thing, not all potatoes fry equally well. But it’s not just about the type of potato. Other variables include: skin on or off…sliced thick or thin….”
“The type and temperature of the oil must also be factored in.”
Potatoes, oil, and salt
“So,” we asked. “What’s Jules’ recipe? How do you get from here…
“TOP SECRET!” Jules replied. “Like we said, unlike George Crum, we didn’t just luck into creating the crispy-light potato chips our clients love today. We worked at this over a period of time. There was a lot of trial and error. But, if you’d like to see how it’s done, our good friend and master potato-chip maker, Fernando Medina, is making a fresh batch right now.”
“Try one,” Fernando offered.
Mmm-mmm-mmmmm! We were very nearly speechless.
“Have another,” he prompted.
We couldn’t resist.
Americans have a thing for potato chips
According the Snack Food Association, potato chips are the number one salty snacks in the U.S., and potato chip sales reached $3.6 billion in 2010.
This, of course, would come as no surprise to Bert Lahr, the onetime Cowardly Lion in the Wizard of Oz, who went on to become spokesperson for Lay’s Potato Chips in the l960s. “Bet you can’t eat just one” was Lahr’s and Lay’s signature slogan. (Below is a variation on this theme.)
If you haven’t had the good fortune to try Jules’ freshly made potato chips, then Jules puts forth the familiar and friendly challenge: Bet you can’t eat just one!
Laura Scudder’s Potato Chip YouTube: MiscVideos78rpm
Jules Catering’s Homemade Potato Chips: Liz Muir
Cornelius Vanderbilt Daguerrotype: Matthew Brady Workshop, Library of Congress
George Crumb: Public Domain
Boise Valley Potato Harvest Circa 1929: ID-0070, WaterArchives.org
Bert Lahr, Lay’s Potato Chip Ad: Frito-Lay
All other images of Jules Catering’s potato chips and chip-making process: Liz Muir