Tuesday August 24, 2021’s Smile of the Day: Potato Chips
On this Day:
In 1853, the world’s 1st potato chips were prepared by chef George Crum at Moon’s Lake House, near Saratoga Springs, New York. Well….except that earlier recipes existed…somewhat taking the crunch out of his claim…
A potato chip (often just chip, or crisp in British and Irish English) is a thin slice of potato that has been either deep fried or baked until crunchy. They are commonly served as a snack, side dish, or appetizer. The basic chips are cooked and salted; additional varieties are manufactured using various flavorings and ingredients including herbs, spices, cheeses, other natural flavors, artificial flavors, and additives.
Potato chips form a large part of the snack food and convenience food market in Western countries. The global potato chip market generated total revenue of US$16.49 billion in 2005. This accounted for 35.5% of the total savory snacks market in that year ($46.1 billion).
The earliest known recipe for something similar to today’s potato chips is in William Kitchiner’s book The Cook’s Oracle published in 1817, which was a bestseller in the United Kingdom and the United States. The 1822 edition’s recipe for “Potatoes fried in Slices or Shavings” reads “peel large potatoes… cut them in shavings round and round, as you would peel a lemon; dry them well in a clean cloth, and fry them in lard or dripping”. An 1825 British book about French cookery calls them “Pommes de Terre frites” (second recipe) and calls for thin slices of potato fried in “clarified butter or goose dripping”, drained and sprinkled with salt. Early recipes for potato chips in the US are found in Mary Randolph’s Virginia House-Wife (1824) and in N.K.M. Lee’s Cook’s Own Book (1832), both of which explicitly cite Kitchiner.
A legend associates the creation of potato chips with Saratoga Springs, New York, decades later than the first recorded recipe. By the late nineteenth century, a popular version of the story attributed the dish to George Crum, a cook at Moon’s Lake House who was trying to appease an unhappy customer on August 24, 1853. The customer kept sending back his French-fried potatoes, complaining that they were too thick, too “soggy”, or not salted enough. Frustrated, Crum sliced several potatoes extremely thin, fried them to a crisp, and seasoned them with extra salt. To his surprise, the customer loved them. They soon came to be called “Saratoga Chips”, a name that persisted into the mid-twentieth century. A version of this story was popularized in a 1973 national advertising campaign by St. Regis Paper Company which manufactured packaging for chips, claiming that Crum’s customer was Cornelius Vanderbilt. Crum was already renowned as a chef at the time, and he owned a lakeside restaurant by 1860 which he called Crum’s House. The “Saratoga Chips” brand name still exists today.
First, a Story:
What do you call a millennial who eats potato chips? A Chipster
Second, a Song:
Bulee “Slim” Gaillard (January 9, 1911 – February 26, 1991), also known as McVouty, was an American jazz singer and songwriter who played piano, guitar, vibraphone, and tenor saxophone.
Gaillard was noted for his comedic vocalese singing and word play in his own constructed language called “Vout-o-Reenee”, for which he wrote a dictionary. In addition to English, he spoke five languages (Spanish, German, Greek, Arabic, and Armenian) with varying degrees of fluency.
He rose to prominence in the late 1930s with hits such as “Flat Foot Floogie (with a Floy Floy)” and “Cement Mixer (Put-Ti-Put-Ti)” after forming Slim and Slam with Leroy Eliot “Slam” Stewart. During World War II, Gaillard served as a bomber pilot in the Pacific. In 1944, he resumed his music career and performed with notable jazz musicians such as Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, and Dodo Marmarosa.
In the 1960s and 1970s, he acted in films—sometimes as himself—and also appeared in bit parts in television series such as Roots: The Next Generations.
In the 1980s, Gaillard resumed touring the circuit of European jazz festivals. He followed Dizzy Gillespie’s advice to move to Europe and, in 1983, settled in London, where he died of cancer on 26 February 1991, after a long career in music, film and television, spanning nearly six decades.
Along with Gaillard’s date of birth, his lineage and place of birth are disputed. Many sources state that he was born in Detroit, Michigan, though he said that he was born in Santa Clara, Cuba of an Afro-Cuban mother called Maria (Mary Gaillard) and a German-Jewish father called Theophilus (Theophilus Rothschild) who worked as a ship’s steward.
During an interview in 1989, Gaillard added: “They all think I was born in Detroit because that was the first place I got into when I got to America.” However, the 1920 census lists one “Beuler Gillard” [sic] as living in Pensacola, Florida, having been born in April, 1918 in Alabama. Researchers Bob Eagle and Eric LeBlanc have concluded that he was born in June 1918 in Claiborne, Alabama, where a “Theophilus Rothchild” [sic] had been raised the son of a successful merchant in the small town of Burnt Corn; other documents give his name as Wilson, Bulee, or Beuler Gillard or Gaillard.
At the age of twelve, he accompanied his father on a world voyage and was accidentally left behind on the island of Crete. On a television documentary in 1989, he said, “When I was stranded in Crete, I was only twelve years old. I stayed there for four years. I traveled on the boats to Beirut and Syria and I learned to speak the language and the people’s way of life.” After learning a few words of Greek, he worked on the island “making shoes and hats”. He then joined a ship working the eastern Mediterranean ports, mainly Beirut, where he picked up some knowledge of Arabic. When he was about 15, he re-crossed the Atlantic, hoping the ship would take him home to Cuba, but it was bound for the U.S. and he ended up in Detroit. He never saw either of his parents again.
Alone and unable to speak English, he tried to get a job at Ford Motor Company but was rejected because of his age. He worked at a general store owned by an Armenian family, with whom he lived for some time, then tried to become a boxer. During Prohibition in 1931 or 1932, he drove a hearse with a coffin that was packed with whiskey for the Purple Gang. He attended evening classes in music and taught himself to play guitar and piano. When Duke Ellington came to Detroit, he went backstage and met his hero. Determined to become a musical entertainer, he moved to New York City and entered the world of show business as a ‘professional amateur’. As Gaillard recalled much later:
The MC would say, “Here they come, all the hopefuls!” Well, we may have been hopefuls but we weren’t amateurs. Of course, you had to be a little bad in spots. If you were too good you’d lose the amateur image. I would be a tap dancer this week, next week I’d play guitar, two weeks later some boogie-woogie piano. They paid us $16 a show. I did one with Frank Sinatra I got $16 and he got $16. Every time I see him I say, “Got a raise yet, Frank?”
—Tony Russell, Jazz Greats, Issue #57.
Gaillard first rose to prominence in the late 1930s as part of Slim & Slam, a jazz novelty act he formed with bassist Slam Stewart. Their hits included “Flat Foot Floogie (with a Floy Floy)”, “Cement Mixer (Put-Ti-Put-Ti)” and the hipster anthem, “The Groove Juice Special (Opera in Vout)”. The duo performs in the 1941 movie Hellzapoppin’.
Gaillard’s appeal was similar to Cab Calloway’s and Louis Jordan’s in that he presented a hip style with broad appeal (for example in his children’s song “Down by the Station”). Unlike them, he was a master improviser whose stream of consciousness vocals ranged far from the original lyrics. He sang wild interpolations of nonsense syllables, such as “MacVoutie O-reeney”. One such performance is celebrated in the 1957 novel On the Road by Jack Kerouac. Gaillard, with Dodo Marmarosa on piano, appeared as a guest several times on Command Performance, recorded at KNX radio studios in Hollywood in the 1940s and distributed on transcription discs to American troops in World War II.
In 1943, Gaillard was drafted in the United States Army Air Forces and “qualified as a pilot flying […] B-26 bombers in the Pacific” and resumed his music career on his release from the draft in 1944. Upon his return he released the song Atomic Cocktail, which featured seemingly lighthearted lyrics laced with symbolism about nuclear war.
Gaillard later teamed with bassist Bam Brown. They can be seen in a 1947 motion picture featurette O’Voutie O’Rooney filmed live at one of their nightclub performances. Slim and Bam was featured at the first Cavalcade of Jazz concert held at Wrigley Field in Los Angeles that was produced by Leon Hefflin Sr. on September 23, 1945 along with Count Basie. Gaillard also played for the 2nd Cavalcade of Jazz held at Wrigley Field on Oct. 12, 1946, and played for the 3rd Cavalcade of Jazz held also at Wrigley Field on September 7, 1947.
In the late 1940s and early 1950s, Gaillard frequently opened at Birdland for Charlie Parker, Flip Phillips, and Coleman Hawkins. His December 1945 session with Parker and Dizzy Gillespie is notable, both musically and for its relaxed convivial air. “Slim’s Jam”, from that session, is one of the earliest known recordings of Parker’s speaking voice. In 1949 he was playing in San Francisco. Near the end of Part Two of Jack Kerouac’s book On the Road is an account of meeting him at a performance there.
Gaillard could play several instruments and managed to turn the performance from jazz to comedy. He would play the guitar with his left hand fretting with fingers pointing down over the fingerboard (instead of the usual way up from under it), or would play credible piano solos with his palms facing up. Gaillard wrote the theme song to the Peter Potter radio show. In addition, in 1950 he wrote and recorded the “Don Pitts On the Air” theme for San Francisco DJ Don Pitts. On March 27, 2008 the Pitts theme song entered the archives of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio.
In the early 1960s, Gaillard lived in San Diego, California. During that time he recorded several singles and performed with local bands. Under the name Slim Delgado, he recorded a rock and roll single for the Xavier label titled “Frank Rhoads Round.”
Gaillard appeared in several shows in the 1960s and 1970s, such as Marcus Welby, M.D., Charlie’s Angels, Mission: Impossible, Medical Center, The Flip Wilson Show, and Then Came Bronson. He also appeared in the 1970s TV series Roots: The Next Generations and reprised some of his old hits on the NBC prime-time variety program The Chuck Barris Rah Rah Show.
By the early 1980s Gaillard was touring the European jazz festival circuit, playing with such musicians as Arnett Cobb. He also played with George Melly and John Chilton’s Feetwarmers, appearing on their BBC television series and also occasionally deputising for Melly when he was unwell. Gaillard’s behavior on stage was often erratic and nerve-wracking for the accompanying musicians. He made a guest appearance on Show 106 of the 1980s music program Night Music, an NBC late-night music series hosted by David Sanborn.
Around Christmas 1985, Gaillard recorded the album Siboney at Gateway Studios in Battersea, London, produced by Joe Massot. As Massot recalled later:
I was introduced as Cuban. “Rooney! I am Cuban too.” […] Slim said how much he wanted to make a Latin record and talked about his friend the great Cuban leader Machito. This was 1985. I had been flying between Angola, where Cuban troops were fighting and Miami where one million exiled Cubans live. We talked of all those Cubans who wanted to go back to Cuba but couldn’t. […] In his inimitable, enthusiastic way Slim was trying to sell me, a movie maker, the idea of recording an album.
—Joe Massot, Siboney.
In 1986, Gaillard appeared in the musical film Absolute Beginners, singing “Selling Out”. In the autumn of 1989, the BBC aired director Anthony Wall’s four-part documentary on Gaillard entitled Slim Gaillard’s Civilisation (per Wikipedia).
Here is Slim Gaillard performing “Potato Chips”, from his “Laughing In Rhythm: The Best Of The Verve Years” album of 1953. Producer was Norman Granz; Associated Performer, Composer and Guitar: Slim Gaillard and the Lyricist was Bundora (per YouTube.com). I hope you enjoy this!
Thought for the Day:
“I try to avoid barbecue potato chips. They’re my weakness.” – Gwyneth Paltrow
Have a great day!
Dave & Colleen
© 2021 David J. Bilinsky and Colleen E. Bilinsky