Fried Sliced Potatoes
We began our search, not at The British Library, where several month’s worth of research would no doubt reveal a hundred and one 19th century cook-books with hints toward frying techniques and therefore inevitably, our favourite potato snack, but instead, Google.
The search engine, which will no doubt one day replace the Encyclopaedia Britannica for the world’s first reference point, in all its inaccurate glory, provides a couple of early evidence links.
To Fry Sliced Potatos
"Peel large potatos, slice them about a quarter of an inch thick, or cut them in shavings round and round, as you would peel a lemon; dry them well in a clean cloth, and fry them in lard or dripping. Take care that your fat and frying-pan are quite clean; put it on a quick fire, watch it, and as soon as the lard boils and is still, put in the slices of potatos, and keep moving them till they are crisp; take them up, and lay them to drain on a sieve; send them up with very little salt sprinkled on them."
Title: The Virginia Housewife
Author: Mary Randolph
"Peel a pound of potatoes, cut them into very thin slices, almost shavings; put some fat into a frying-pan; when very hot, but not burning, throw the slices in, not too many at a time, as they will stick together; move them about with a skimmer, to prevent it. When a nice brown colour, take them out, and sprinkle some salt over; serve them up separate, or over broiled meat. Two inches of fat ought to be in the pan."
Title: A Shilling Cookery for the People
Author: Alexis Benoit Soyer
Other books, most notably; The Cook’s Oracle by William Kitchiner, and NKM Lee’s,The Cook’s Own Book, both publications of that era, also make mention of thinly sliced fried potatoes.
What we learned was that some people couldn’t spell potatoes in the 1820s. Mind you, former American Vice President Dan Quayle couldn’t spell it either, and that was as recent as 1992.
We also learned that it was worth a relatively minor mention. Considering the complicated and extraordinary array of recipes around at the time, it is not a stretch to presume it was a fairly common dish. We are not therefore convinced that an exact date for the invention of the potato chip can be pinned down.
For those willing to try, the address you want is: The British Library, 96 Euston Road, London, NW1 2DB
This leads us to the commercial fore-runner of the modern day UK Crisp and American Potato Chip – or is it, French Fries and Chips?