George Crum and the Saratoga Chip

This colorful picture book tells the story of the invention of the potato chip which, like so many great inventions, was discovered by accident. According to the story told by Gaylia Taylor in George Crum and the Saratoga Chip, potato chips were created by a frustrated chef named George Crum who was trying to satisfy a picky customer.George CrumThe book begins long before George’s famous culinary creation. It starts by telling of George’s childhood in the 1830s in Saratoga Springs, New York.

George was part Native American and part African American. At school, he battled other children’s perceptions that he was inferior to them because they were white. Ms. Taylor discusses this prejudice directly and describes how George fought this discrimination throughout his life.

When he was finished with school, George spent his time fishing and hunting in the nearby Adirondack mountains. One day while he was out hunting, he met a Frenchman, who happened to be an excellent cook. The Frenchman taught George how to cook what he had caught over a campfire.

This experience sparked George’s realization that “he had a passion for cooking.” He began experimenting until he had perfected recipes for the birds, fish, venison, and other game he trapped.

George wanted to show all of Saratoga Springs what a good cook he was. He decided the best way to do this was to become a chef in a restaurant. It wasn’t easy for George to get a job as a chef in those days. Most restaurant owners wouldn’t hire a man of color to be anything but a waiter. George didn’t let that stop him.

George got a job as a chef at one of the best restaurants in Saratoga Springs. He became famous for his cooking, and wealthy, prominent people traveled far distances to eat his dishes.

George found that some of those customers were difficult to please, and he had little patience for them. One day, a fussy customer came in and ordered French-fried potatoes. George was sure they were perfect, but the customer sent them back, claiming they were too thick.

George grabbed a potato and sliced it so thin that when he held a slice up to the light, he could see straight through it. He put them into a pot full of hot oil, and cooked them longer and at a higher temperature than was needed for French fries. When they were done, he piled them onto a plate and served his new creation to the customer himself.

The customer declared them to be “the most delicious potato delicacy she had ever tasted.” And the “Saratoga Chip” was born!

Frank Morrison’s illustrations in this book are amazing. Full of color and detail, they take the reader from the one-room schoolhouse where George could not count to 100, to the beauty of the Adirondack mountains, to the excitement of the kitchen in Moon’s Lake House restaurant. They are a perfect pairing to this story, and will help young readers fully engage with the tale of George Crum. Mr. Morrison’s art is featured on his website:

Have you read any great books lately?

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