Today marks the anniversary of a legend. It was on August 24, 1853 at an upscale resort in Saratoga Springs when the resort’s chef had had enough. One especially picky customer kept sending his French-fried potatoes back, insisting that they had been cut too thick. After several attempts to please the customer, George Crum decided to get a little passive aggressive. He sliced the potatoes razor thin, fried them, and then seasoned them with extra salt and probably a little bit of attitude.
As so often happens when we take the passive aggressive approach, it turned out the customer didn’t really receive the message. He loved Crum’s crispy potato chips and raved about them so that soon other customers requested them as well.
There are similar recipes from cookbooks in the early 1800’s so Crum’s probably wasn’t the first potato chip in history, but he has become a part of an invention legend that may even be a little bit true, if perhaps embellished somewhat over the years. The dish was a hit and a few years later, Crum had opened his own restaurant, which featured a basket of salty chips on every table.
I love stories like this, the ones that tell of the accidental discovery of something great. Potato chips of course swept the nation, becoming one of America’s favorite snack foods. And by the 1980s, people were using the phrase “all that and a bag of chips” to describe something that was great, plus even a little bit better.
Potato chips have been on my mind lately because my kids have been back in school for about a week now. With that comes the early morning scramble to get everyone out the door breakfasted, clothed (in vaguely weather-appropriate clothing, not necessarily matching because if they aren’t going to take the time to care then I’m certainly not), tooth brushed, and with a packed backpack, signed homework planner, water bottle, snack, and lunch that yes, often includes a bag of chips. Don’t judge.
One week in, the morning school routine has gone really well so far, which is especially great because we’ve added a new complication into the mix. For the first time in a long time, I have started teaching an English class at a local college and so I also have to get out the door breakfasted, clothed (so far my choices have pretty much matched), tooth brushed, and with a pack full of books, lesson plans, a water bottle, and maybe the occasional bag of chips. Don’t judge.
I realize there are a lot of families that live this reality every day of the week, but since I have spent the last few years only staying home to write, it’s new for us. And at least so far, I kind of love it. I am enjoying being back in a classroom and among interesting colleagues talking about thinky kinds of things. I don’t know my students well yet, but so far most of them have managed to get out the door, dressed (hopefully also breakfasted and tooth brushed) and to class on time ready to learn, which is all I ask at this early point in the semester. I have high hopes that at least a few of them might learn a thing or two.
Since this is my first semester back in the classroom after a long absence, I am taking my time and only teaching one section. That also gives me a chance to reestablish my writing routine that has slipped into near nonexistence over the course of the summer. So far that’s working pretty well. It’s the best of both worlds, really. It might even be all that and a bag of chips.