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Very thin potato slices fried crisp in oil, seasoned and served as a cold snack.
Western Daily Press - Friday 15 February 1929
There is a long-standing story that crisps (or 'chips', as nearly every English-speaker outside the Home Countries calls them) were invented by cook George Crum of Moon's Lake House near Saratoga Springs, New York, USA, on August 24, 1853. Crum, the fascinating offspring of a native-American mother and a jockey father of African descent, wanted to silence a customer who complained that his fried potatoes were too thick and flabby. Different versions have the customer being either the railroad magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt, or fussy-eater extraordinary John Harvey Kellogg. While it does appear to be the case that Crum's salted 'Saratoga Chips' gained huge popularity throughout New York and New England, it is not entirely clear that it was he who invented them.
Long before the introduction of potato to Europe 'cyspes' or 'cryspels' made of flour paste 'as thynne as Paper' are given in 'The Forme of Cury' by the Chief Master-Cook of King Richard II, about 1390, and in the 15th Century 'Austin Manuscripts'.
As for potato, a receipt is found in Soyer 1845 ("very thin slices, almost shavings"), in Francatelli 1852 ("thickness of two penny pieces") and can be traced as Potato Ribbons even further back.
Original Receipt from 'A Shilling Cookery for The People' by Charles Elme Francatelli (Francatelli 1845)
298. Fried Potatoes. - Peel a pound of potatoes, cut them into very thin slices, almost shavings; put some fat into a frying-pan; when very hot, but not burning, throw the slices in, not too many at a time, as they will stick together; move them about with a skimmer, to prevent it. When a nice brown colour, take them out, and sprinkle some salt over; serve them up separate, or over broiled meat. Two inches of fat ought to be in the pan.
The Smith's Potato Crisp Company was established after the First World War by Francis Leigh Smith at Cricklewood, reputedly in Smith's garage. Around 1920 they introduced crisps in waxed paper packets and expanded rapidly, moving to a factory in Brentford. The company has been owned by Nabisco, BSN and more recently by PepsiCo who have largely replaced the Smith's branding with 'Walkers', forcefully marketed using the footballer Gary Lineker.
Flavoured crisps appear to originate with the Irish 'Tayto' brand in the 1950's.
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