Lifelines: The Black Book of Proverbs

Sunday, April 25, 2010

George Crum - Chips from a long ago block

Creation: Spring & Easter
Concerning food, there is no adult. (Uganda)

For some of us, joy is a bag of chips and a book, a bag of chips and a movie, a bag of chips and salsa. Or just a bag of chips, any flavor. We owe our pleasure to George Crum and his annoyance at one of his customers.

George was a chef at the Moon Lake Lodge resort in Santiago Springs, New York. In 1853, a guest ordered French fries from George’s restaurant. This delicacy, briefly renamed Freedom Fries in the US when France refused to support the Iraq war, had been popular since the 1700s. The potatoes would be cut lengthwise, lightly fried, and then eaten with a fork.

“Too thick, and not crisp enough,” said the customer, sending George’s French fries to the kitchen.

So George fried up another batch. The child of a Black father and a Native American mother, he had previously been a trapper. His exceptionally cooking skills had earned him the job as chef, and he resented complaints about his food. He therefore conceivably used choice words to describe this overly fussy customer.

“Still too thick. And definitely not crisp enough,” said the customer.

George clearly had other meals to cook, and he needed to end this customer’s demands on his time and patience. He therefore decided to teach the customer a lesson by sending back an inedible meal. So he sliced the potatoes as thin as paper, and friend them as crisp as tree bark. He hoped to annoy the customer further by making the fries greasy and impossible to eat with a fork. He also added excess salt.

“Wow!!” said the customer this time. “Delicious!!”

Soon, other restaurant guests demands these new treats as well. George’s “Saratoga Chips” were so popular and profitable that he opened his own restaurant with a basket of chips on every table.

George never patented his idea, and other entrepreneurs carried the concept to success. Today, potato chips are arguably a favorite snack inside and outside the US.

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When the occasion arises, there is a proverb to suit it. (Proverb from Rwanda and Burundi)

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Some of the proverbs here may also be found in "Lifelines: The Black Book of Proverbs", published by Random House and authored by Askhari Johnson Hodari and me. The foreword is written by Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

One of the unique features of our book is that we arranged the proverbs according to life cycle, in sections including, Birth, Childhood, Love, Marriage, and Intimacy, Challenge, and Death.

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