Ever wondered how we got the potato chip? Like many great innovations, it was created in anger, according to one story, by Chef George "Speck" Crum at Moon's Lake House in Saratoga Springs, New York. Speck, in 1853, was irritated by a diner (allegedly Corneilus Vanderbilt, who was a regular) that kept sending back his soggy, bland, potatoes. So Speck sliced a new potato as thin as possible, deep fried them as crisp as possible, and loaded them down with salt. To his surprise, the chips were a hit.
There are disputes to this, of course, but in any event, salty, crispy potato chips weren't sold to-go until more than 50 years later, beginning with either Dayton, Ohio's Mike-Sells or Leominster, Massachusett's Tri-Sum in 1908-10 (It was Laura Scudder, in Monterey Park, CA--now a mecca for Chinese cuisine--who innovated wax paper bags).
Whatever the case, clearly this part of the world is still a potato-chip hot spot. At least judging by my recent visit to Western New York, pretty much in the dead center between these towns. Shopping in a Wal-Mart near Lake Erie, I found an incredible array of potato chip varieties offered. And I'm not talking about large national brands like Lay's and Ruffles, or even nationally-distributed craft foods like Cape Cod or Tim's. I'm talking about multiple tiny brands, each of them in several varieties!
None of these may be life-changing peculiarities--the Hartley's that I ended up getting were just ok--but the fact that such a big box store as Wal-Mart carrying so many really tells you something. These folks love their chips!