Potato chips are pieces of potato which have been sliced extremely thin and then fried or baked until they become crisp. They may be eaten fresh and hot, or at room temperature. This food has become a popular offering all over the world, and many nations have their own unique take on the potato chip, incorporating regional ingredients and flavorings. Most markets carry potato chips, and often a stunning array is available.
The nomenclature surrounding potato chips can get extremely confusing. In Great Britain, for example, the term “chips” is used to describe potatoes which have been julienne cut and fried, while thin slices of crisp fried potatoes are known as crisps. In the United States, julienne cut fried potatoes are known as French fries, and other regions have their own distinct terms for potato chips and French fries, adding to the chaos. For this reason, it's a good idea to confirm an order when traveling, to make sure that you end up with the food you were expecting.
There is some dispute as to who invented the potato chip, and when. Many sources credit George Crum, a chef who allegedly invented potato chips when irked at a customer in 1853. However, recipes for thin slices of potatoes fried until crisp are much earlier, with one recipe dating from 1824. It is also entirely possible that many people made this food at home even earlier, and that it took some time for potato chips to enter the public consciousness.
In any case, there are all sorts of ways to prepare and eat potato chips. The skin may be peeled, or left on, the potatoes can be fried, or baked, and the chips may be ruffle cut or left flat. Potato chips can also be seasoned with a wide variety of ingredients, ranging from wasabi to barbecue sauce, and the frying oil can also be varied for a distinctive flavor. Some potato chips are prepared in olive oil, for example, while others are made in corn or soy oil, and several companies make gourmet potato chips with high-quality ingredients and batch preparation techniques.
Many people like to eat potato chips straight, treating them as a snack food. Others may dip them in various substances for additional flavor, and potato chips can also be found in an assortment of recipes. Depending on where one is, potato chips may be added to sandwiches, mashed up in casseroles, crushed and used for breading on fried foods, or even stuck in the fridge so that they can be eaten cold.