The Chips Are In! Slideshow
June 17, 2011
Fun facts about all types of chips, from potato and pretzel to pita and bagel
Banana chips can be baked, dehydrated, or dried for trail-mix consumption. Fried banana chips are said to have originated in Kerala, India, where they are fried in either coconut or palm oil, and flavored with sugar, salt, spices, or jaggery (sugar cane concentrated into a blocklike form). Trader Joe's carries both fried and baked versions, and it's useful to be able to tell the difference between chips plump with saturated fat and dried fruit.
In 1978, Jim Burns and Gary Ricker of the Old Village Cheese Shop (now Monterey Gourmet) in Bernardsville, N.J., decided to serve cheese samples on toasted bagel slices instead of crackers. The public clamored for more, and New York Style Bagel Crisps proliferated to the extent that a grocery deli section seems naked without them.
Even more difficult to imagine than a world without bagel chips is a world without pita chips. But most of us were alive in such a world, unaware that the crackly, addictive bliss they create was possible. The pita chip was supposedly invented (and certainly first commercially packaged) by Stacy Madison, who initially made them for customers who were waiting to get food from her sandwich cart during the harsh, pita chip-less Boston winter. In 1998 she gave up the food cart and went into making pita chips full-time. Stacy co-founded Stacy's Snacks and as Jewish Woman Magazine reported in 2005, pita chips grew to be the #2 selling snack food in Costco stores.
Why are Fritos different from all other corn chips? There's something about the curl, the thickness, the mystical twist of the chip that the tongue can't quite follow. But how did they come to be?
During the Great Depression, Elmer Doolin bought a fried corn chip recipe for $100 from a man selling the "fritos" (little fried things) on the street in San Antonio. Doolin became fixated on perfecting the recipe, and according to his daughter, he even tested multiple breeds of corn. (Experiments in his kitchen resulted in Cheetos too.) The resulting strain is said to be the secret behind Fritos' signature taste.
Doritos are a vivid example of a crazy food experiment success story. Launched in 1966 by (who else?) Elmer Doolin of Frito-Lay, the triangular chip was marketed as a more flavorful tortilla chip. Things really took off when the Taco flavor was introduced, followed shortly by Nacho Cheese. Once Cool Ranch became a household name (inspired by ranch dressing, in case you were curious), the options became limitless. Flavors in these modern times include: Chicken Sizzler Zesty Salsa, Pizza Cravers, Atomic Chile Lemon, Mr. Dragon's Fire Chips, Ketchup, Peking Duck, and a mystery flavor in 2008 that turned out to be Mountain Dew. Ladies and Gents, the future of food.
According to the official website, Pringles were invented in 1968 by Proctor & Gamble researchers. They aren't cut or peeled, but made from dried potatoes cooked and mashed with water to form a potato dough that's fried, and seasoned "on one side." Did you know the Pringle, a uniformly shaped chip (technically called a hyperbolic parabaloid) has suspected links to Communism? That's what comedian Mark Russell declared in 1975.
Tortillas have been around for some time (think 10,000 BC Mayan America), but the concept of packaging fried tortilla strips didn't really take off until the 1940s. Rebecca Webb Carranza worked at El Zarape Tortilla Factory in L.A., and frequently took home misshapen tortilla scraps to fry and serve at parties. By the 1960s, "Tort Chips" were El Zarape's main business. Moral of the story: find something that hasn't been fried yet, fry it, and start a manufacturing company.
They're unbeatable — the king of chips. If you say you don't like them, you're probably lying. The invention of potato chips can be pinpointed to a specific time and place: 1853, in Saratoga Springs. Supposedly, an irksome patron of the Moon Lake Lodge sent back his fried potatoes, asking for them to be crunchier. Chef George Crum, known by several accounts as a tough old character (with several wives), cut the potatoes viciously thin and salted them vengefully, hoping to annoy the customer. Instead, he made history.
Bean chips, like sweet potato chips or "baked not fried" anything, are aimed directly at the health market. Kellogg's makes a 100% Natural BeAnatural 3 Bean Chip, while Boulder Canyon makes a Rice & Bean chip made with adzuki beans, which are more commonly used in red bean paste.
Beanitos, perhaps the cutesiest of all brands, were created for "Human Beans" by brothers Doug and Dave Foreman in order to sell to both mildly-obsessive and very allergic consumers. These earth-toned disks are free of corn, soy, potato, trans fat, gluten, and joy. Just kidding about the last part.
Food for Thought: Can you eat bean dip with bean chips, or is that a party foul?
With chips made out of purple sweet potato, kabocha squash, taro, and carrots, TERRA seems to have cornered the market on vegetable chips over the last 20 years. Any vaguely health-conscious person will recognize their sleek black and silver bags — so elegant that it makes sense that one of TERRA's first buyers was Saks Fifth Avenue. TERRA chips were the invention of Dana Sinkler and Alex Dzieduszycki, two chefs at four-star Manhattan restaurants who quit their jobs to start a catering business.
Other vegetable chips (the "lowbrow" brands if you will), such as Eden Vegetable Chips, or Flat Earth Baked Veggie Crisps contain Frankenstein-like mixtures of not-quite vegetables, such as rice flour and potato flakes in the former, and potato starch and soy sauce in the latter.
Popcorn chips. Yes, that's right — flat, triangular chips whose sleek silhouette cannot quite tame its rumply, bubbled surface. The flavor of popcorn, the texture of chips — why? Why not! Popcorn does have that finicky habit of sticking to your teeth. There are multiple "inventors" of the popcorn chip: Popcorn Indiana, Popcorners, and the wonderfully retro Popcorn Chips, whose chips look more like shredded toilet paper.
Staring out in 1970, the Wilson family originally made funnel cakes out of the Paramus Park Mall in New Jersey. By 1985 they were also making bagel and pita chips, both of which they seem to claim as their own inventions (though Jim Burns and Gary Ricker claim to have created bagel chips seven years earlier). The creation of the flat pretzel cracker in 2004, however, does seem to be the real deal, with a patent and everything.
Interestingly, Pretzel Crisps came under fire last year for having anorexic-insensitive ads: "You can never be too thin," and "Tastes as good as skinny feels."