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11 Facts About Potato Chips for Your Next Snack Break

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They're the perfect snack food, but how well do you really know the chips you're munching on? 

1. Their famous origin story may not have happened. 

According to culinary legend, the potato chip was born when Saratoga Springs, N.Y. chef George Crum presented the first plate of chips to Cornelius Vanderbilt in 1853. Crum was trying to get back at Vanderbilt, who kept insisting that his french-fried potatoes weren’t thin enough. Sick of having the dish sent back, Crum sliced a fresh batch of potatoes paper-thin, cooked them until they were too crisp to be picked up by a fork, and had them brought out to Vanderbilt, expecting to get a rise out of him. Instead, the railroad tycoon loved the dish, and a new tradition was born. But as some sources have noted, this story is probably more folk tale than fact. 

2. “Chips” came before “crisps.” 

The story of Crum and Vanderbilt may be folklore, but make no mistake: Americans own the naming rights to this beloved snack (there is an 1822 British recipe for “potatoes fried in slices or shavings,” but those were sliced a quarter of an inch thick, or just shaved into the oil). Chips really do trace their roots back to Saratoga, and so all successive iterations were beholden to the original “Saratoga chips,” which eventually reached a national audience thanks to one Nashville-based Herman Lay. 

3. They were nearly a casualty of World War II.

When the United States entered World War II, potato chips were declared a “nonessential food” that had to halt production immediately. Manufacturers balked at the idea, and protests convinced the War Production Board to back down. Thanks to these potato chip-loving patriots, potato chips sold better during and after the war than they ever had before.

4. We owe a debt to Laura Scudder, potato chip queen of California. 

Before potato chips were mass-produced and marketed around the world, they were sold in bulk in mom-and-pop shops, where they were served out of wooden barrels or scooped from behind glass counters. It took one enterprising California woman to come up with the concept of pre-bagging the chips, both for freshness and transportability. Laura Scudder, who had opened a potato chip company in 1926, worked hard to perfect her idea. Originally made of waxed paper that was ironed by hand into grease-resistant packets, those first potato chip bags were the forerunners of today’s crinkly foil sacks. 

5. Pringles aren’t potato chips. 

They’re potato crisps. The cans of perfectly shaped snacks ran afoul with traditional chip makers almost as soon as they appeared on American shelves in 1968. The Potato Chip Institute International, a Cleveland-based representative of hundreds of chip makers, came out swinging against Pringles since Procter & Gamble’s new snack was made from, among other ingredients, dried potatoes rather than fresh spuds. The “potato chip war” remained hot for nearly a decade, with the Institute standing by its definition that a potato chip was a “slice of fresh, raw potato, deep fried in vegetable oil, salted, and packaged.” Eventually P&G gave up the fight and started calling Pringles “potato crisps.” 

6. There’s more than just “air” in those bags. 

Potato chip bags are only partially filled for a reason: The additional space adds cushioning to prevent breakage. The bags are also pumped full of nitrogen, which helps keeps the product fresher before opening. 

7. “Crispy” and “crunchy” aren’t the same thing. 

Professor William E. Lee of the University of South Florida may be the world’s top potato chip scientist. After years spent studying the unique crunch of potato chips and other salty snacks, by the early '90s Lee had established himself as the authority on what makes a chip satisfying to bite into. Lee has found that the sound of chomping on chips contributes to the pleasure you get from your snack. In the study “Analysis of Food Crushing Sounds During Mastication,” he found that chip eaters maximize the amount of sound they’re creating with each bite. Eaters who wore headphones that kept them from hearing the crunch of their chips grew bored with the snack more quickly. One important note: things that are crunchy tend to produce louder sounds and a much longer lasting sensation—they're generally still hard after 10 chews (like tortilla chips, for example). Crispy textures, on the other hand, last only a few bites and result in much higher-pitched noises.

8. They helped an Olympian on her way to greatness. 

Jackie Joyner-Kersee, possibly the greatest female athlete in history, came from humble beginnings before dominating college basketball and both the women’s heptathlon and long jump in multiple Olympic Games. Before she was decorated with a slew of gold, silver, and bronze medals, she was a nine-year-old who had recently come in last in her first race. Still, she swore to her friends she was going to make the Olympic track and field team someday. 

The future champion wanted to start practicing immediately, but she didn’t have a soft landing place for her leaps. So she enlisted her sisters’ help and got creative. The siblings began visiting a local park to fill empty potato chip bags with sand. They ferried these loads home to create a makeshift jumping pit. 

9. The world’s largest bag weighed as much as a small car. 

The marketing slogan is true: When it comes to the salty, crispy, fried temptation that is a potato chip, you can't eat just one. No one was in danger of doing so on September 13, 2013, when Corkers Crisps set a new world record for the largest single bag of potato chips. The bag measured 18 feet tall and comfortably housed more than 2,515 pounds of chips – all right, crisps – all of which were cooked in a single batch, as per Guinness World Record regulations, over a 17-hour period. Cambridgeshire locals would have had no shortage of snacks that day. 

10. Ridges are an engineering marvel. 

In response to consumers who wanted a heftier chip that wouldn’t break when dipped in various sauces, manufacturers introduced the ruffled chip, which is a full four times thicker than a standard chip —and a whole lot sturdier.

11. No flavor is too weird. 

With the wealth of flavored potato chips available today, it’s hard to imagine a past in which chips only came in one flavor: potato. Independent chip makers began seasoning their products sometime in the 1950s, and ever since, companies around the world have turned out varieties tailored to their local markets. 

In the U.S., that means bestsellers like barbecue and sour cream & onion, as well as offbeat options like buffalo wing, dill pickle, and Old Bay crab seasoning. Overseas, the sky’s the limit: the UK indulges in prawn cocktail and roast beef flavors, while Greece favors oregano. Japan does a brisk trade in soy sauce, seaweed, and butter potato chips, and countless other countries sell chips flavored with paprika, cassava, mint, mayonnaise, hoisin duck, and, of course, “Cajun squirrel.”

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Shout! Factory
10 Surprising Facts About Mr. Mom
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Shout! Factory

John Hughes penned the script for 1983's Mr. Mom, a comedy about a family man named Jack Butler (Micheal Keaton) who loses his job. To ensure their three kids are taken care of, his wife, Caroline (Teri Garr), goes back to work—leaving Jack to fight off a vacuum cleaner and learn why it's never a good idea to feed chili to a baby.

In 1982, Keaton turned in a star-making role in Ron Howard’s Night Shift, but Mr. Mom marked the first time he headlined a movie, and it launched his career. Hughes had written National Lampoon's Vacation, which—oddly enough—was released in theaters the weekend after Mr. Mom. But Hughes himself was still a relative unknown, as it would be another year before he entered the teen flick phase of his career, which would make him iconic.

In the meantime, Mr. Mom hit home for a lot of viewers, as the economy was on the downturn and more and more women were entering (or reentering) the workforce. But some people think that the movie's ending—which sees the couple revert to traditional gender roles—sidelined the movie's message. Still, on the 35th anniversary of its release, Mr. Mom remains an ahead-of-its-time comedy classic.

1. IT'S BASED ON A TRUE STORY.

Mr. Mom producer Lauren Shuler Donner came across a funny article John Hughes had written for National Lampoon. Based on that, she contacted him and the two became friends. “One day, he was telling me that his wife had gone down to Arizona and he was in charge of the two boys and he didn’t know what he was doing,” Donner told IGN. “It was hilarious! I was on the floor laughing. He said, ‘Do you think this would make a good movie?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, this is really funny.’ So he said, ‘Well, I have about 80 pages in a drawer. Would you look at it?’ So I looked at it and I said, ‘This is great! Let’s do it!’ We kind of developed it ourselves.” In the book Movie Moguls Speak, Donner mentioned how Hughes “had never been to a grocery store, he had never operated a vacuum cleaner. John was so ignorant, that in his ignorance, he was hilarious.”

The players involved with the movie told Donner and Hughes they thought it should be a TV movie. Hughes had a TV deal with Aaron Spelling, who came aboard to executive produce. “Then the players involved were upset because John was writing out of Chicago instead of L.A.,” Donner said in Movie Moguls Speak. “They fired John and brought in a group of TV writers. In the end, John and I were muscled out. It was a good movie, but if you ever read John’s original script for Mr. Mom, it’s far better.”

2. JOHN HUGHES REJECTED THE IDEA OF DIRECTING MR. MOM.

Stan Dragoti ended up directing the film, but only after Hughes turned it down, because he preferred to make his movies in Chicago, not Hollywood. “I don’t like being around the people in the movie business,” Hughes told Roger Ebert. “In Hollywood, you spend all of your time having lunch and making deals. Everybody is trying to shoot you down. I like to get my actors out here where we can make our movies in privacy.” Hughes remained in Chicago and filmed his directorial debut, Sixteen Candles, there.

3. MICHAEL KEATON GOT THE ROLE BECAUSE OF NIGHT SHIFT.

In 1982’s Night Shift, Keaton’s character works at a morgue and starts a prostitution ring with co-worker Henry Winkler. Donner had an agent friend, Laurie Perlman, who represented the not-yet-famous actor. She contacted Donner and pitched Keaton to her. “’Look, I represent this guy who is really funny. Would you meet with him?’" Donner recalled of the conversation. "So I met with him. Usually I don’t like to do this unless we’re casting, but I met with him because she was my friend. And then she said, ‘You have to see this movie Night Shift that he’s in.’ So I went to see Night Shift, and midway through I couldn’t wait to get out of that theater to give Mr. Mom to Michael Keaton. Fortunately, he liked it."

Keaton told Grantland that he turned down one of the main roles in Splash to play Jack Butler. “I just remember at the time thinking I wanted to get away from what I’d just done on Night Shift,” he said. “I thought if I do it again, I might get myself stuck. So then Mr. Mom came along. So I said no [to Splash] so I could set up this framework right away where I could do different things.”

4. THE FILM BROKE NEW GROUND.

Teri Garr, Michael Keaton, Taliesin Jaffe, Frederick Koehler, and Martin Mull in Mr. Mom (1983)
Shout! Factory

In 1983, more women stayed at home than worked, so it was a novelty for a man to be a stay-at-home dad. Today, an estimated 1.4 million men are stay-at-home dads, and 7 million men are their children's primary caregiver. “Mr. Mom became part of the vernacular,” Donner told Newsweek. “Mr. Mom represented a segment of men who were at home dealing with the kids who, up until then, really hadn’t been heard from. That’s what really told me about the power of film, because it spoke for a lot of men. It also helped women, because I think that women sometimes, if you’re a housewife, you’re not really appreciated for what you do. This sort of made women feel better about what they did because they knew that men were understanding it.”

5. TODAY, “MR. MOM” IS CONSIDERED A PEJORATIVE TERM.

More than 30 years after the film’s release, stay-at-home dads feel the term “Mr. Mom” should die. The National At-Home Dad Network launched a campaign to terminate the phrase and instead have people refer to men as “Dad.” In 2014 Lake Superior State University voted to banish “Mr. Mom” from the lexicon.

“At least, the pop-culture image of the inept dad who wouldn’t know a diaper genie from a garbage disposal has begun to fade,” wrote The Wall Street Journal, after declaring “Mr. Mom is dead.”

6. TERI GARR DIDN’T KNOW IT WAS A MESSAGE MOVIE.

The movie redefined gender roles, but when the producers pitched the premise to Garr, they hid the plot reversal. “They just told me it was about a guy who does the work that a woman does, because it’s so easy,” she told The A.V. Club. “And I went, ‘Oh, yeah. Ha ha.’ It’s so easy. All the women I know who stay home and take care of their kids, they go, ‘Oh yeah, this is easy.’ Hmm.”

7. MARTIN MULL IMPROVISED THE “220, 221” LINE.

The quote everyone remembers from the movie comes from Jack, holding a chainsaw, standing next to Ron Richardson (Martin Mull) and discussing what kind of wiring Jack will use in renovating the house: “220, 221, whatever it takes,” Jack says.

“We’re doing the scene and it was okay,” Keaton told Esquire. “And I remember saying to the prop guy, ‘Go find me a chainsaw.’ When he comes back with it, he says, ‘You wanna wear these?’ And he holds up some goggles. I go, ‘Yeah.’ You know, they make me look crazy. And when Martin shows up, I know I should look under control, I’m not sweating it. I’m a dude. So we’re standing there, Martin pulls me aside and says, ‘You know what you ought to say? When I ask about the wiring, you oughta just deadpan: ‘220, 221.’ I died. It was perfect. I may have added ‘whatever it takes.’ But it was his.”

“That was a little ad-lib that we just threw in, but every carpenter or construction person I’ve ever worked with, they’re always quoting that line from Mr. Mom,” Mull told The A.V. Club.

8. MR. MOM OUTGROSSED HUGHES’S OTHER 1983 SUMMER MOVIE—VACATION.

Mr. Mom only opened on 126 screens on July 22, 1983, but managed to gross $947,197 during its opening weekend. Once the film went wide a month later to 1235 screens, it hit number one at the box office and spent five weeks at the top. By the end of its run, the film had grossed just shy of $65 million, making it the ninth highest-grossing film of 1983 (just between Staying Alive and Risky Business). National Lampoon’s Vacation, Hughes’s other film that summer, came out July 29 and ended its theatrical run with $61,399,552 (at its height, it showed on 1248 screens). Vacation finished the year in 11th place.

9. THE MOVIE LED TO HUGHES BEING CALLED “A PURVEYOR OF HORNY SEX COMEDIES.”

During a 1986 interview with Seventeen magazine, Molly Ringwald asked the writer-director why he never showed teen sex in Sixteen Candles or The Breakfast Club. “In Sixteen Candles, I figured it would only be gratuitous to show Samantha and Jake in anything more than a kiss,” he said. “The kiss is the most beautiful moment. I was really amused when someone once called me a ‘purveyor of horny sex comedies.’ He listed The Breakfast Club and Mr. Mom in parentheses. I thought, ‘What kind of sex?’ Yes, in Mr. Mom there’s a baby in a bathtub and you see its bare butt.”

10. MR. MOM WAS MADE INTO A TV MOVIE AFTER ALL.

In the beginning, producers wanted Mr. Mom to be a TV movie, not a feature film. But a year after the film came out in theaters, ABC produced a TV movie called Mr. Mom, with the same characters and premise. Barry Van Dyke played Jack and Rebecca York played Caroline. A People magazine review of the movie stated: “They and their three kids are immediately likable … But it goes downhill from there as the script lobotomizes all its characters. Here’s a textbook case in how TV takes a cute idea—and a script that does have some good lines—and leeches the wit out of it.”

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