The History of Popular Foods


From chips and chocolates to corn flakes and colas, discover the history behind your favourite treats!



In 1853, Chef George Crum invented potato chips at Moon's Lake House, a restaurant near Saratoga Springs, New York, USA. He was fed up with a customer who continuously sent his fried potatoes back, complaining that they were soggy and not crunchy enough. In frustration, Crum sliced the potatoes as thin as possible, fried them in hot oil and then covered them with salt. The customers were happy and the chips, also called 'Saratoga Chips', quickly became a popular item throughout New York.



In 1894 two brothers, Dr John Harvey Kellogg and Will Keith Kellogg, were searching for wholesome foods to feed patients who followed a strict vegetarian diet. One day, Will accidentally left some boiled wheat sitting out, which went stale by the time he returned. He chose not to throw it away but instead both the brothers sent it through rollers, hoping to make long sheets of dough. But to their surprise, they got flakes which they toasted. These flakes became a huge hit among their patients and were patented under the name 'Granose'. The brothers then experimented with other grains, including corn, and in 1906, Will created the Kelloggʼs company to sell cornflakes.



In 1930, Ruth Wakefield, the owner of Toll House Inn ran out of baking chocolate. She hurriedly smashed a bar of semi-sweet chocolate and added the pieces to her dough. After removing it from the oven she noticed that the cookies weren't uniformly infused with melted chocolate, but rather studded with little chunks throughout. The signature sweet put her inn on the cookery map and hence chocolate chip cookies were invented.



Thomas Sullivan, a New York coffee merchant, who was struggling to cut costs turned to tea and sent out samples of loose tea in small silk sachets. His moneysaving technique was misunderstood by his customers who didnʼt realise that they had to cut open the sachet and empty its contents. But this resulted in a great invention that is used by a large number of people today. The silk bag was swiftly replaced with gauze in 1930 by William Hermanson of Bostonbased Technical Papers Corporation.



The popsicle, one of today's favourite frozen snacks, was accidentally invented by an 11-year-old boy, Frank Epperson. In the 20th Century, soda water powder mixed with water was a common drink among all. This young boy began to mix this drink for himself one day in 1905, but instead of drinking it, left it on his back porch overnight. Though he lived in California, temperatures reached a record low that night and the next day, he found his drink frozen, with the stirring stick still inside. This was interesting enough to him as a child but a few years later, in 1923 Epperson thought he could sell his accidental invention as a snack. He began selling his invention, then called 'Epsicles', in seven flavours. The name was later changed to 'Popsicle'.



Cheese was invented by an old Arabian travelling across the desert. He carried a pouch, made from a sheep's stomach, along with him. To ensure that he had enough food for his long journey, he poured milk into it and continued on his way. Later, he opened it to find cheese. What really happened was that the chemicals from the sheep's stomach combined with the heat of the sun and clumped the milk into cheese.



Saccharin, the oldest artificial sweetener, was accidentally discovered in 1879 by researcher Constantine Fahlberg who worked at John's Hopkins University. Fahlberg's discovery came after he forgot to wash his hands before lunch. He had accidentally spilled a chemical on his hands which caused the bread he ate to taste unusually sweet.

In 1880, Fahlberg and his scientist friend Remsen published the discovery. But in 1884, Fahlberg obtained a copyright and began mass-producing saccharin without Remsen. The use of saccharin did not become widespread until sugar was rationed during World War I. Its popularity increased during the 1960s and 1970s with the manufacture of diet soft drinks.



At the 1904 St Louis World's Fair, an ice cream vendor ran out of cups. A nearby pastry vendor, Syrian Ernest Hamwi decided to help him. He wrapped his waffle pastris into cones and gave it to the ice cream vendor which then became popular. However, even though the Fair made headlines for cones, a patent for an ice cream cone was actually filed earlier in that year by Italian immigrant Italo Marchiony.



Back in 1490BC, when Egyptians found dried grapes on vines they thought the grapes were old and poisonous. But a few of them ventured to taste the dried grapes and found them to be sweet and delicious. Raisins are stated in Egyptian writings to be used as food, medicine, sporting contest awards, tax payments and even temple decor.



Dr John Stith Pemberton, an American pharmacist, soldier and inventor was working on a new headache medicine and he wanted it to taste good. After a lot of research, he sent his invention for approval. The approvers found that it tasted better than it worked. They added some carbonated water, changed it a little bit more and introduced it worldwide as Coca Cola, a new soft drink.