Accidental Inventions (Food)


Many things that are a basic part of society today were invented or discovered by accident.  The food world has experienced many beneficial mistakes. For example, Kelloggs Corn Flakes came about as the result of a simple mistake in 1894. At the time, John Havery Kellogg worked for the Battle Creek Sanitarium in Michigan. He worked as the superintendent and his brother, Will Keith Kellogg, worked with him also. One day, in their search for foods to give patients who were on strict vegetarian diets, Will left out some boiled wheat, which went stale. The brothers, hoping not to waste the wheat, put it through rollers, expecting to get sheets of dough. Instead, they were left with a bunch of flakes, which they toasted and gave to the patients. The flakes were a huge hit and the brothers patented them. They later used corn as a substitute and created the Kellogg’s company in 1906. This cereal company has flourished and still exists today.

Perhaps one of the most widespread snacks in America, the potato chip, was also a result of an accident in 1853. A chef by the name of George Crum was was working near Saratoga Springs, New York. He was angry because one of his customers wouldn’t stop complaining that his fried potatoes were soggy. Attempting to show his frustration, Crum cut the potatoes as thin as possible, fried the slices and covered them with salt. The plan backfired and the customer loved them. They became know as “Saratoga Chips” and were enjoyed everywhere in New England. The mass production of the chips followed and these snacks have been enjoyed by the general public ever since.

Although his accidental food invention is frequently enjoyed by those enjoying a refreshing swim in outside pools all summer long, the “pool location” came 34 years later in 1887 when the first public swimming pool opened in Brookline, MA. Most likely wealthy individuals already had their own pools to refresh in with bowls of tasty Saratoga Chips to nipple with their afternoon liquid refreshments. Archeologists believe the site of the first swimming pool, dated at around 300 BC, or “Great Bath” is at the site of Mohenjo-Daro in modern-day Pakistan. Of course there were no Saratoga Chips available back then, nor were these tasty potatoes and salt enjoyed by the Greeks and Romans while in their baths. It was during their colonial period in the 1800′s that many British diplomats and soldiers first encountered public pools and baths in India, China, and Japan. The Brits brought the idea of the “modern” swimming pool back home to England. Anyway, I digress. Today, however, it’s hard to imagine a day at a pool without someone nibbling on the most recent iteration of George Crum’s “Saratoga Chips.”

Although not specifically a food item, gift baskets especially happy birthday gifts are another product that evolved from a humble source into a major and well accepted product over the years. Originally a simple offering containing the produce and baked goods available on the family farm where money was scarce, this now burgeoning market was fueled to a large extent by the industrial revolution and the migration of the masses away from agriculture. Add to that the internet revolution and the ability to buy products online and you see that the explosion of gift baskets online, and the accompanying growth of gift basket manufacturers were clearly contributing to an accidental invention. Gift baskets now come in all shapes and sizes and include gourmet items, wedding gifts, house warming gifts, even fishing and golf gift baskets are available. The gift basket marketplace is still evolving with organic and eco friendly gift baskets the most recent iteration of the humble gift basket with its homemade foodstuff.

In conclusion, many valuable inventions can come about unintentionally. These lucky accidents have dramatically advanced the world of food. At accidentally on purpose, we try to take advantage of other beneficial accidents or ideas that may come about through social media.

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