11 Facts About Potato Chips for Your Next Snack Break


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 Originally made of waxed paper that was ironed by hand into grease-resistant packets, those first potato chip bags were the forerunners of today’s crinkly foil sacks. 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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15 Heartwarming Facts About Mister Rogers
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Getty Images

Fred Rogers—who was born in Latrobe, Pennsylvania on March 20, 1928—remains an icon of kindness for the ages. An innovator of children’s television, his salt-of-the-earth demeanor and genuinely gentle nature taught a generation of kids the value of kindness. In celebration of what would have been his 90th birthday, here are 15 things you might not have known about everyone’s favorite “neighbor.”


According to Benjamin Wagner, who directed the 2010 documentary Mister Rogers & Me—and was, in fact, Rogers’s neighbor on Nantucket—Rogers was overweight and shy as a child, and often taunted by his classmates when he walked home from school. “I used to cry to myself when I was alone,” Rogers said. “And I would cry through my fingers and make up songs on the piano.” It was this experience that led Rogers to want to look below the surface of everyone he met to what he called the “essential invisible” within them.


Rogers was an ordained minister and, as such, a man of tremendous faith who preached tolerance wherever he went. When Amy Melder, a six-year-old Christian viewer, sent Rogers a drawing she made for him with a letter that promised “he was going to heaven,” Rogers wrote back to his young fan:

“You told me that you have accepted Jesus as your Savior. It means a lot to me to know that. And, I appreciated the scripture verse that you sent. I am an ordained Presbyterian minister, and I want you to know that Jesus is important to me, too. I hope that God’s love and peace come through my work on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.”


Responding to fan mail was part of Rogers’s very regimented daily routine, which began at 5 a.m. with a prayer and included time for studying, writing, making phone calls, swimming, weighing himself, and responding to every fan who had taken the time to reach out to him.

“He respected the kids who wrote [those letters],” Heather Arnet, an assistant on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in 2005. “He never thought about throwing out a drawing or letter. They were sacred."

According to Arnet, the fan mail he received wasn’t just a bunch of young kids gushing to their idol. Kids would tell Rogers about a pet or family member who died, or other issues with which they were grappling. “No child ever received a form letter from Mister Rogers," Arnet said, noting that he received between 50 and 100 letters per day.


It wasn’t just kids and their parents who loved Mister Rogers. Koko, the Stanford-educated gorilla who understands 2000 English words and can also converse in American Sign Language, was an avid Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood watcher, too. When Rogers visited her, she immediately gave him a hug—and took his shoes off.


Though Rogers began his education in the Ivy League, at Dartmouth, he transferred to Rollins College following his freshman year in order to pursue a degree in music (he graduated Magna cum laude). In addition to being a talented piano player, he was also a wonderful songwriter and wrote all the songs for Mister Rogers' Neighborhood—plus hundreds more.


Rogers’s decision to enter into the television world wasn’t out of a passion for the medium—far from it. "When I first saw children's television, I thought it was perfectly horrible," Rogers told Pittsburgh Magazine. "And I thought there was some way of using this fabulous medium to be of nurture to those who would watch and listen."


A Yale study pitted fans of Sesame Street against Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood watchers and found that kids who watched Mister Rogers tended to remember more of the story lines, and had a much higher “tolerance of delay,” meaning they were more patient.


If watching an episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood gives you sweater envy, we’ve got bad news: You’d never be able to find his sweaters in a store. All of those comfy-looking cardigans were knitted by Fred’s mom, Nancy. In an interview with the Archive of American Television, Rogers explained how his mother would knit sweaters for all of her loved ones every year as Christmas gifts. “And so until she died, those zippered sweaters I wear on the Neighborhood were all made by my mother,” he explained.


Those brightly colored sweaters were a trademark of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, but the colorblind host might not have always noticed. In a 2003 article, just a few days after his passing, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote that:

Among the forgotten details about Fred Rogers is that he was so colorblind he could not distinguish between tomato soup and pea soup.

He liked both, but at lunch one day 50 years ago, he asked his television partner Josie Carey to taste it for him and tell him which it was.

Why did he need her to do this, Carey asked him. Rogers liked both, so why not just dip in?

"If it's tomato soup, I'll put sugar in it," he told her.


According to Wagner, Rogers’s decision to change into sneakers for each episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood was about production, not comfort. “His trademark sneakers were born when he found them to be quieter than his dress shoes as he moved about the set,” wrote Wagner.


Oscar-nominated actor Michael Keaton's first job was as a stagehand on Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, manning Picture, Picture, and appearing as Purple Panda.


It's hard to imagine a gentle, soft-spoken, children's education advocate like Rogers sitting down to enjoy a gory, violent zombie movie like Dawn of the Dead, but it actually aligns perfectly with Rogers's brand of thoughtfulness. He checked out the horror flick to show his support for then-up-and-coming filmmaker George Romero, whose first paying job was with everyone's favorite neighbor.

“Fred was the first guy who trusted me enough to hire me to actually shoot film,” Romero said. As a young man just out of college, Romero honed his filmmaking skills making a series of short segments for Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, creating a dozen or so titles such as “How Lightbulbs Are Made” and “Mr. Rogers Gets a Tonsillectomy.” The zombie king, who passed away in 2017, considered the latter his first big production, shot in a working hospital: “I still joke that 'Mr. Rogers Gets a Tonsillectomy' is the scariest film I’ve ever made. What I really mean is that I was scared sh*tless while I was trying to pull it off.”


In 1969, Rogers—who was relatively unknown at the time—went before the Senate to plead for a $20 million grant for public broadcasting, which had been proposed by President Johnson but was in danger of being sliced in half by Richard Nixon. His passionate plea about how television had the potential to turn kids into productive citizens worked; instead of cutting the budget, funding for public TV increased from $9 million to $22 million.


Years later, Rogers also managed to convince the Supreme Court that using VCRs to record TV shows at home shouldn’t be considered a form of copyright infringement (which was the argument of some in this contentious debate). Rogers argued that recording a program like his allowed working parents to sit down with their children and watch shows as a family. Again, he was convincing.


In 1984, Rogers donated one of his iconic sweaters to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.

Tony Karumba, AFP/Getty Images
The World's Last Male Northern White Rhino Has Died, But Could He Still Help Save the Species?
Tony Karumba, AFP/Getty Images
Tony Karumba, AFP/Getty Images

Following age-related complications, Sudan the northern white rhinoceros was euthanized by a team of vets in Kenya at 45 years old, CNN reports. He was one of only three northern white rhinos left on Earth and the last male of his subspecies. For years, Sudan had represented the final hope for the survival of his kind, but now scientists have a back-up plan: Using Sudan's sperm, they may be able to continue his genetic line even after his death.

Northern white rhino numbers from dwindled from 2000 in 1960 to only three in recent years. Those last survivors, Sudan, his daughter Najin, and granddaughter Fatu, lived together at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya. Each animal had physical issues making it difficult for them to breed, and now with Sudan gone, a new generation of northern white rhinos looks even less likely.

But there is one way the story of these animals doesn't end in extinction. Before Sudan died, researchers were able to save some of his genetic material, which means it's still possible for him to father offspring. Scientists may either use the sperm to artificially inseminate one of the surviving females (even though they're related) or, due to their age and ailments, fertilize one of their eggs and implant the embryo into a female of a similar subspecies, like the southern white rhino, using in vitro fertilization.

"We must take advantage of the unique situation in which cellular technologies are utilized for conservation of critically endangered species," Jan Stejskal, an official at the Dvur Kralove Zoo in the Czech Republic where Sudan lived until 2009, told AFP. "It may sound unbelievable, but thanks to the newly developed techniques even Sudan could still have an offspring."

Poaching has been a major contributor to the northern white rhino's decline over the past century. Rhinos are often hunted for their horns, which are believed to have medicinal properties in some Asian cultures. (Other people just view the horn as a sign of wealth and status). Procreating is the biggest issue threatening the northern white rhinoceros at the moment. If such poaching continues, other rhino species in the wild could end up in the same situation.

[h/t CNN]


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