Getting our tonsils taken out, having a tooth removed, and a myriad of other medical procedures would be excruciating if it weren’t for the help of anesthesia. Surgeries are never something people look forward to, but can you imagine the crippling fear that would be experienced if every procedure was done without an anesthetic? Yikes. Although it seems like coming up with the concept of numbing pain before surgical procedures wouldn’t be that difficult of a feat, the men of medicine who were responsible for helming anesthesia originally used nitrous oxide as a party drug.
In the 1800s, Crawford Young, William Morton, Charles Jackson, and Horace Wells would participate in “laughing parties” or “ether frolics” where partygoers would become intoxicated by ethers and nitrous oxide. It was 1844 when the idea of parlaying these recreational uses into medicine came about when Wells noticed a man under the influence oblivious to a severe leg injury he had incurred. Whether or not the man got that leg taken care of is unknown, but the fact that he didn’t feel any pain (for as long as the nitrous oxide was taking effect) was part of what spurred anesthesia. Wells later used a compound from “laughing gas” to remove his tooth, and from there a collaboration between Wells, Young, Morton, and Jackson took place to begin using the compounds for “minor dental surgeries.” It is up for debate as to who can truly garner the title of prime discoverer for anesthesia, but we’re just thanking our lucky stars (and limbs) that it exists.
In 1853, hotel chef, George Crum, was having a bad day at work. As cooking is often referred to as an art, insults to the chef aren’t often met with kindness. Crum wasn’t used to criticism, as he was considered to be one of the cooking world’s most elite, whipping together a plethora of culinary creations that would be “fit for a king.” One patron, however, didn’t feel that their meal sufficed as a royal treatment, particularly when it came to the fries. The choleric customer posited that the fries were too thick, absent of flavor, and soggy. He swiftly demanded a new dish that was made to his liking. Rather than stay true to the old adage, “The customer is always right,” Crum decided that the patron’s ire deserved to be reciprocated with his own, and he went to work to make a dish that he was sure would annihilate any remnants of pleasure that may have remained on the patron’s tastebuds. Since the guest felt the fries were too thick and bland, Crum decided to make the thinnest cut of fries imaginable by cutting potatoes into paper-thin slices before dousing what he had intended to be an abominable creation with salt. The result was not what Crum expected.
The bad mood of the patron was completely dismantled once he bit into what was the first ever potato chip, and he immediately asked for seconds. What Crum meant as revenge became famous throughout New England as “Saratoga Chips,” and even led to Crum establishing his own restaurant. Today, “Saratoga Chips” are known simply as potato chips, and they have become one of the biggest snack staples of the nation.
Chocolate Chip Cookies
Since we’ve appealed to the savory-toothed proponents with the invention of potato chips, let’s move on to something for those with an admitted sweet tooth by delving into the history of the chocolate chip cookie. Like Crum, the inventor of the chocolate chip cookie came upon the discovery by creating something they assumed would not appease their guest — unlike Crum, the kitchen faux pas wasn’t intentional. Today, we often think of the name “Nestle Toll House” when thinking of chocolate chip cookies — along with the cylindrical decadence known as chocolate chip cookie dough — and in the 1930s, Ruth Wakefield and her husband, Kenneth, owned the acclaimed Toll House Inn in Whitman, Massachusetts. Wakefield was preparing to make a large batch of her famous chocolate Butter Drop Do cookies when she found herself in a quandary — she was fresh out of baker’s chocolate. Fortunately, she had a bar of Nestle’s semisweet chocolate and decided to improvise by mashing the chocolate bar in with the dough. She assumed that the chocolate would melt upon heating and that the guests would be none the wise. Upon pulling her altered staple from the over, she found that the chocolate remained unmelted, a confection of chocolatey shards peppering the tan cookies. As was the case with the begrudged guest at the hotel where Crum was chef, the guests at the Toll House Inn became instantly enamored with what is now known as chocolate chip cookies.
People loved the cookies so much, they rushed to stock up on Nestle semisweet chocolate so that they could replicate the recipe at home. Noticing the increase in sales, Andrew Nestle sough out Wakefield, and they made a deal: “Andrew Nestle agreed to give Wakefield a lifetime supply of the chocolate in return for her recipe printed on every Nestle semisweet chocolate bar.”