Think About It

On Making Potato Chips

by Don Meyer, Ph.D. | October 30, 2010

"A new idea is delicate. It can be killed by a sneer or a yawn; it can be stabbed to death by a quip or worried to death by a frown on the right man's brow."
Charles Brower

I enjoy cooking. Since Evie also works full-time, when we come home I often encourage her to sit down, prop her feet up, and relax while I put something together for supper. It is one of the things I can do to help "us." 

Some weeks ago I was preparing something that usually went with potato chips but, to my chagrin, I realized we were all out. That day I was working at home and Evie was planning on coming home for lunch. Our plan was for me to have lunch ready when she walked in the door. 

I was too far into my menu when I realized we were out of potato chips. How hard can it be, I thought, to make potato chips? I quickly went to the computer and "Googled" the words "Homemade Potato Chips" and immediately I had lots of options. The recipe which caught my eye, however, was the one for the "Micro-Wave Potato Chips." I made a copy of that page and hurried back to the kitchen to try it out. 

All I had to do was take a potato and slice it into real thin pieces, lay them on a plate, season them, then place them in the micro-wave for five minutes or so until they turned a light brown. Salt and/or pepper could be added to taste. I took our vegetable slicer and went to work. 

My first batch was crisp, but a little over-done. About that time Evie came home and I scooted her out of the kitchen and encouraged her to sit down, prop up her feet and relax until lunch was ready.

I wish you could have seen her eyes when we sat down to lunch with my crispy, delicious homemade potato chips on the side. She loved them. And so did I. One of the best parts of these potato chips is that you don't need to use any grease to make them. 

It made me wonder when potato chips were first made. According to tradition, the original potato chip recipe was created in Saratoga Springs, NY on August 24, 1853. Agitated by a patron's repeatedly sending his fried potatoes back, complaining that they were too thick and soggy, resort hotel chef, African American George Crum decided to slice the potatoes even thinner. 

Contrary to Crum's expectation, the patron (sometimes identified as Cornelius Vanderbilt) loved the new chips and they soon became a regular item on the lodge's menu under the name "Saratoga Chips." 

The potato chip has now evolved into America's favorite snack food with flavors and shapes and sizes for any snack food junkie. Although approximately one eighth of all potatoes in America are made into chips, potato chips are made all over the world. Actually, potato chips are more American than apple pie, which came to America from Europe. 

From that first batch of "Meyer Homemade Potato Chips" which were very hard to scrape off the plate, we have improved and expanded our efforts. Spraying a little olive oil from an aerosol can makes removal from the plate much easier. Using a three-size slicer (we use size number two for chips) makes cutting them much easier. And using sweet potatoes as well as regular potatoes makes them even tastier. 

Since we have enjoyed making them and eating them, we have told our friends so that now a host of people around Phoenixville are making homemade potato chips. You just never know what can happen in a kitchen, or in a life, when you run out of the usual materials and you are required to be creative. 

Who would have ever thought a typical lunch could be enhanced by a little creativity. 

Think about it.

Dr. Don Meyer is President of 
Valley Forge Christian College, Phoenixville, PA 
Responses can be mailed to president@vfcc.edu
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