Accidental food that everyone eats

Accidental food that everyone eats

We’d like to start today’s newsletter with a disclaimer: 

You’re going to read three stories that might not actually be 100% true. 

They’re the stories of how three popular food products were first invented (or discovered) – but there are other stories associated with these foods. And while the three stories we’re sharing here are all set in the US, it’s possible that earlier versions of the snacks were invented in other parts of the world. 

Actually, we’d love to hear from you if you’ve heard a different story about how any of these food products came to be. Open up this newsletter on LinkedIn and share your counter-story in the comments. 

But now let’s suspend our cynicism for a minute and look at how three snacks (the potato chip, the ice lolly, and the chocolate chip cookie) arrived in our lives. 

The potato chip*

*That’s crisps to the British English speakers among us. 

Legend has it that the potato chip was invented in Saratoga Lake, in the state of New York, by George Speck. His father was African American and his mother was Native American, and he later changed his last name to Crum. 

In 1853, Crum was working as a chef at the Moon Lake Lodge Resort. One of the dishes he had to cook was French-fried potatoes; long strips of potato, lightly fried. 

But one day, a customer sent his French-fried potatoes back to the kitchen. He said they were too thick and too soft, and asked for more. Crum made them again – but again, the customer sent them back. 

Eventually, a frustrated Crum sliced the potatoes paper-thin and fried them until they were crispy and brown. And (presumably to Crum’s surprise) the customer loved them. 

Saratoga Chips became one of the most popular dishes at the lodge. And then in 1860 Crum opened his own restaurant, Crumb’s House – which served a basket of potato chips on every table. 

The ice lolly*

*Also known as the popsicle.

It was 1905 when a young boy called Frank Epperson was playing outside his house in San Francisco, California. Without any particular plan, he mixed some sugary soda powder with water, stirring it together in a container. 

And then he left the container out overnight. The air temperature dropped below freezing – and the sugary mixture solidified. 

The next morning, Epperson found his frozen creation, and decided to call it an epsicle (blending his name with ‘icicle’, in case you didn’t get that). 

He started selling sticks of sugary ice to his friends, and the treats grew in popularity. In 1923 he applied for a patent for his ‘frozen confection of attractive appearance, which can be conveniently consumed without contamination by contact with the hand and without the need for a plate, spoon, for or other implement.’

Epperson got the patent – and later in the 1920s, popsicles started to be mass-produced.

Ruth Wakefield ran the Toll House restaurant in Whitman, Massachusetts, in the late 1930s. She was baking a batch of cookies one day when she realised she’d run out of baker’s chocolate. 

But she did have some sweet Nestlé chocolate on hand. So she broke it up into pieces, assuming that it would melt and spread through the cookies when they were in the oven. 

Instead, the chocolate pieces held their shape. And when she tasted the cookies, she found that the chocolate created a delicious, sweet texture in contrast to the cookie dough. 

Wakefield started selling her chocolate chip cookies to customers at the restaurant – and they quickly became a hit. 

Her recipe for ‘Toll House Chocolate Crunch Cookies’ was published in a Boston newspaper, and as the story goes, it was so popular that Nestlé contacted her and requested to buy the rights to the recipe in exchange for a lifetime supply of chocolate. 

Wakefield agreed. And Nestlé began marketing chocolate chips that were specifically produced to be baked into cookies. 

What do all these stories have in common? 

They all started with a mistake, or an accident. And in all three cases, that accident (if we believe for a moment that these stories are all true) was the creative force behind some of the most-loved and widely sold food products in the world. 

So the takeaway is simple: embrace your capacity to make mistakes. Try things that you think probably won’t work. Because you never know when you might discover the next most-loved food product in the world. 

This is your final chance to register for InFlavour, see you on the 29th!

Share on


Take your seat at the InFlavour table, a government-backed and world-leading B2B food event by Tahaluf.

E-mail address Submit
Sign up

Want to keep up to date with all our latest news and information? Enter your name below to be added to our mailing list.

E-mail address Submit