betcha can’t eat just one: George Crum and the Saratoga Chip


Go ahead. Reach out and grab one.

Then munch to your heart’s content, because February is National Snack Food Month!

Potato chips are America’s favorite snack food — to the tune of over $6 billion worth consumed every year. But for all the chips we’ve inhaled in our lifetimes, how many of us know who invented them?

pictures by Frank Morrison (Lee and Low, 2006),
Picture Book for ages 5+, 32 pp.

Enter, the perfect picture book biography, George Crum and the Saratoga Chip, by Gaylia Taylor, illustrated by Frank Morrison (Lee and Low, 2006). Like the perfect chip with just the right snap and crunch, this story, about a biracial chef who inadvertently invents these crispy rascals back in 1853, is both satisfying and inspiring.

The tale begins with George’s boyhood in Saratoga Springs, New York, where he was often ridiculed in school because of his ethnicity (part Native American, part African American). He was much more in his element outdoors — hunting, fishing, and exploring the nearby Adirondack Mountains.

Once he was out of school, he began delivering fresh fish and game to restaurants in the area. While out hunting one day, George met a Frenchman who taught him how to cook on an open flame. Voila! George had found his passion: he began to experiment with different spices and seasonings, and was able to land a job as a chef in one of the best restaurants in Saratoga Springs, despite the fact that in those days, most African Americans were mainly hired as waiters.

George’s wild game and fish dishes soon made him famous among rich and fancy customers, who especially loved his canvasback duck. But sometimes a fussy or demanding customer tried George’s patience.

One day a woman ordered french fries — a fashionable dish at the time, and George, a spirited perfectionist, welcomed the challenge. He sent out a perfectly prepared, piping hot batch, but much to his surprise and chagrin, the woman declared they were cut too thick before even tasting them. Well, George had finally had enough — if she wanted thin, she was going to get thin! He cut some potatoes so, so thin you could see through them, then cooked them in very hot oil. To everyone’s astonishment, the woman loved the new potato creation from her very first bite, and from then on, everyone who came to Moon’s Lake House requested what would soon be called, Saratoga Chips.

But that wasn’t the end to George’s story. He eventually bought some land, built his own restaurant, and served cuisine prepared from fresh ingredients he grew himself. Most important, every customer was treated equally at his restaurant, regardless of skin color, age, gender, or economic status.

And the pictures in this book? Sweet, smooth and sassy eye candy.

Frank Morrison’s elongated, crazy angled characters (rendered in vibrant acrylics), strut, glide and careen through the pages with spot on facial expressions, from the snobby upturned noses of the posh clientele, to engaging depictions of George’s embarrassment, frustration, feistiness, and sheer joy when he’s in the kitchen inventing a new recipe. Foodies will love the illos of George learning to cook on a campfire, the bustling dining room full of hoity toity customers, and George slaving at the stove trying to satisfy a picky customer.

George Crum and the Saratoga Chip has received rave reviews, and earned a Bank Street College of Education Children’s Book of the Year Award. An Author’s Note separates fact from fiction in this zesty feast of a book that will appeal to a wide readership interested in food, multicultural studies, and interesting inventions. After all, who, in his right mind, could ever resist the perfect chip?

More illos can be viewed at the publisher’s website. Also check out this tasty interview with Gaylia Taylor.

*Interior spreads posted by permission, illustrations copyright © 2006 Frank Morrison, text copyright © 2006 Gaylia Taylor, published by Lee and Low Books, Inc. All rights reserved.

More to Nibble On:

The ultimate chip that made Maui famous — still handmade in limited quantities (thick and dark, with an excruciatingly delicious explosion of flavor in every bite)!
~ photo by Stu Spivack.

** So, what’s your favorite type of potato chip? Rippled or thick cut? Salted or barbecue? Plain or with dip? And do you like the bubble ones (I don’t)?!

Tricia of The Miss Rumphius Effect is hosting the Nonfiction Monday Roundup today. 

24 thoughts on “betcha can’t eat just one: George Crum and the Saratoga Chip

  1. This is dangerous, as I haven’t had breakfast yet. I may run down to the snack machine to satisfy the craving you’ve ignited!

    I like kettle chips–really crunchy and salty ones. When I was growing up, the Charlie Chip man delivered cans of chips to the house! (OOPS! – Is my age showing?)

    I generally like them plain, but every so often I love salt and pepper or salt and vinegar chips. One time I also tasted dill pickle chips. Loved those too!


  2. Chips!

    This looks like a terrific book! I think Crum’s story shows up in the anthology The American Story, too.

    My favorite chip? I like them thin-cut and salty. The Kettle brand is good. I also like baked chips, because then I can eat more without feeling guilty about it.

    Anamaria (


  3. I remember reading that book! Thanks for the peek inside.

    Potato chips, my number one snack, will be my downfall.



  4. I like most chips because I’m a junk food junkie. I love potato chips with french onion dip! I used to eat and eat Cheetohs by half the bag…so messy! I also like BBQ flavored chips. Time for lunch, I’m hungry!
    Kelly Polark


  5. I didn’t know that about potato chips? And that illustrator did an awesome job – really like the style.

    As for my own favorite chips – I’m mostly a traditionalist, the plain ol’ ordinary salted. Not crazy about rippled. I do like sour cream and onion. And Pringles (regular). 😀 With or without dip, all the same. And I LOVE the bubbled ones – it’s fun to see the air pocket when you bite into it (same with bubbles in pizza crust).

    Although, for chips in general, I often prefer tortilla chips over potato. And I also love Fritos and Cheetos. 😀 Not that I can eat any at the moment, but my taste buds remember….


  6. I remember when Pringles first came out. We inhaled them! Who could resist such perfection? Now I appreciate each chip’s uniqueness :D. I don’t know why, but the bubbles bother me.


  7. Thanks for this review. What a great story. I loved learning about the story behind potato chips and you are so right you can’t just eat one.


  8. Great post! I wish I had known it was snacking month. Then I wouldn’t have felt guilty about snacking all month! I haven’t had any potato chips, but I still have a couple of days.

    The book and story sound really great, and I LOVE the illustrations. They are gorgeous! Thanks for sharing this book!


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