Friday, August 25, 2006

George Crum and the Saratoga Chip

George Crum and the Saratoga Chip by Gaylia Taylor, illustrated by Frank Morrison.

Plot: George Crum invents the potato chip.

The Good: It's a true story! The potato chip was invented! Who knew? And how amazing must it have been to have tasted one the first time ever.

This is a title I received from Lee and Low Books, and I am consistently impressed with their titles.

GC&tSC is great for several reasons: it's about food, and it's always fun to find out the origins of food we take for granted. It's also about diversity; George Crum is "part Native American and part African American." (The Author's Note elaborates on George's background.) And it's about a bit of history not usually found in children's books: George was born in 1828. George is a person of color in the pre-Civil War North (specifically, the Adirondacks). The book (which is more about George's personal history) states that "people of color in the United States were often treated as inferior to white people."

Pictures illustrate the reality of this world. George becomes a chef; and the pictures show that the waitresses and waiters are all people of color, while all of the restaurant patrons are white.

George is likable; and he has, as the book says, good days and bad days. (What kid isn't going to relate to that?) It's one of the bad days that inspires his creation of the potato chip. Someone complained that the french fries were too thick, and George's response was along the lines of, "you want thin, Lady? Let me show you thin. And while I'm at it, I'll cook it a little too long and a little too hot." Except the person complaining loved them. And thus "Saratoga chips" were born. Again, what kid isn't going to love that part of the story?

Of course, I have to know the "real" story, and the one page author's note wasn't enough for me. I wanted to know more about George and his family in 1820s New York state. I wondered what became of him, whether he got financial credit. It's not easy to find information out about this time period; and I give a lot of credit to the author and illustrator for the research they did for this book. The author explains, "although there is little definitive information about George Crum and the invention of the potato chip, I have created this story based on the more substantiated existing facts."

It's a great story. I can't wait to use it on my next school visit.

Additional links: Photograph of George Crum; potato chips were invented; another version; and another version; and one more; the snopes version.

I couldn't find an online version of George's recipe, but here is the Family Fun recipe.

OK, one more link because it says German TV is making a documentary about George Crum.

1 comment:

Greg Pincus said...

There's a picture book from last year called The Greatest Potatoes (Stowell and Watts) that tells the same story. What're the odds? Maybe no one can read just one?