Did you ever wonder where your favorite foods got their start? How they came to be your favorite meal or your go-to snack? Sometimes, it’s because food experts just sit in a room until they come up with something new to eat. However, in some other cases, some things were discovered completely by accident and still managed to find their way onto our shelves. Nature has a way of creating serendipity, that’s for sure. Here are 10 Famous Foods Discovered By Mistake.
10. Corn Puffs
Cheese puffs are made with cheese, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that this snack food was discovered in Wisconsin, the cheese capital of America. The story of its creation, however, is a little more surprising. An agricultural company called Flakall had special machines for cleaning its equipment. These machines were grinding corn into animal feed and would get all mucked up with the mashed up grain. To help clean the machines, the workers would sometimes put wet corn feed through the machines. The heat of the machinery caused an interesting and fortuitous reaction: the corn feed puffed up! We know that popcorn is puffed up kernels, but the puffed up corn feed created a puffy piece of corn. An employee named Edward Wilson saw the puffed corn and decided to season them and a new snack – what we now call corn puffs or cheese puffs today was discovered. This corn snack was originally called Korn Kurls. Some people like to point out that if you eat Korn Kurls or Corn Puffs/Cheese Puffs, you’re actually eating repurposed animal feed. What good imagery. But, delicious is delicious no matter where it comes from. Flakall decided to patent the machinery used to make the cheese curls and contributed to snack food history. What would do without our favorite finger-staining movie snack, huh?
9. Ice Cream Cone
New York is the city that never sleeps, but it’s also the city that didn’t want to continue eating ice cream out of a cup. Ice cream vendor Italo Marchioni had been serving the frozen treat to his customers in small glass dishes, so you can probably guess what’s coming. The glass dish would often break or get taken away by the customers so Marchioni realized he needed a disposable container for his ice cream. The enterprising businessman experimented with different solutions in his kitchen until he hit upon thin waffles that he could roll up into a “cone” shape. This turned out to be a genius discovery because not only were these cones disposable, but they were edible as well. People have come to enjoy a good ice cream cone in its own right – with gourmet waffle cones sometimes being higher in calories than the ice cream they hold. Marchioni received a patent for a waffle machine that could make 10 at a time so he could keep up with the demand for his ice cream cones. As if the ice cream cone wasn’t enough, Marchioni also invented the ice cream sandwich’s wafers when he put the frozen treat between two cookies. His ice cream cones are one of those inventions that seem pretty obvious once they exist, so it’s surprising it took so long for someone to come up with it.
8. Popsicles – The Frozen Lollipop
How long do you think it would’ve taken other frozen treat manufacturers to come up with popsicles if someone hadn’t accidentally invented it? Thank goodness we don’t have to worry about that since an 11-year-old boy made sure the world got to enjoy this tasty frozen lollipop. Young Frank Epperson from San Francisco was on his front step drinking a homemade soda drink and left the drink outside with a stirring stick inside. The next day, Frank found his drink frozen solid so he licked the sturdy, but still sugary treat and a light went on in his head. It wasn’t until seventeen years later that he served his “frozen lollipops” to the public. Wisely, he filed for a patent for his frozen concoction, then sold them at a California amusement park and started to get some traction for his iced treat. He started selling the treats on standardized sticks and called his invention “Eppsicles.” An important change was instigated by Epperson’s kids who apparently weren’t happy with the name of the treat. “Frozen lollipop” was okay, if not a little ungainly. Fortunately, his kids suggested “popsicle” and the name immediately stuck. Today, popsicles come in a wide variety of flavors and are sold all over the world. It’s hard to picture little kids enjoying a hot summer day without a melting popsicle running down their arms as they race to finish them before they melt away.
Pretty much all of us have heard the name Kellogg and immediately associate it with breakfast cereals. Doctor John Kellogg was a 19th-century physician and health advocate who was ahead of his time. He advocated vegetarianism, exercise, fresh air and sunshine, and plenty of water. All of this seems like common sense nowadays, but Kellogg lived in an era when smoking was still considered healthy by many people. Although he would become most famous for developing cereals like corn flakes, Kellogg’s initial foray into the breakfast world was his invention of granola. This popular food was made from oatmeal, cornmeal, and wheat meal grounded up into small pieces to make it easier to eat with milk or juice. His granola became so popular with his patients that he started a food company to sell the product more widely. Kellogg wanted to create a cereal that would help digestion and put America back on the right track to health. As part of the movement he called “biological living,” he experimented with several recipes of dextrinized or toasted forms of cereal and eventually hit upon toasted corn flakes, soon followed by toasted rice and toasted wheat cereals. The combination of ingredients was completely random and it created the corn flakes we all know and love today. Another “fun fact” or disturbing fact behind the invention of corn flakes is the other motivation behind them. Kellog wanted to steer America away from their “carnal sins” and hoped this “healthy” food would put a stop to it. If you really want to know why these were invented, Google at your own risks, and don’t say we didn’t warn you.
Maybe you’re not sure what Aspartame is – and maybe it’s better that way – but you’ve probably heard of one of its brand names: either NutraSweet or Equal. Aspartame is a chemical sweetener used as a sugar substitute because it contains almost no calories. This sounds great, but you might have guessed that, if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is. Aspartame was discovered by accident in 1965 by a chemist who was working on an anti-ulcer drug. The chemical that would become Aspartame is a combination of two amino acids that’s about 200 times sweeter than its natural counterpart. Now the bad news. As the body breaks down the amino acids, other chemicals are formed. These other chemicals can block the body’s natural production of dopamine and serotonin levels. One of the chemicals formed during the metabolism of Aspartame, Aspartic Acid, is actually classified as a neurotoxin. If this wasn’t bad enough, Aspartame has also been linked to adolescent migraines. The lesson seems clear: sugar in moderation seems like a much better choice than Aspartame in almost any amount. Of course, this hasn’t stopped many of us from consuming large quantities of the dubious chemical in diet sodas to save on unwanted calories. But, there’s a balance to everything; no calories maybe, but a lot of neurotoxins.
5. Potato Chips
Most of the foods on this list were discovered by accident or at least through a process of trial and error. But when it comes to the potato chip, it’s a bit of a different story. George Crum dipped into his revenge pool to come up with what we now call potato chips. In 1853, the harried cook was frying up french fries, but his customers at the swanky Saratoga Spring resort kept complaining that they were too big and soggy. Crum was determined to teach his customers a lesson so he sliced the potatoes as thin as humanly possible (that will show them!) before frying them up until they were crispy. Apparently, he didn’t get the reaction he was hoping for because the customers loved his new take on fries. These “Saratoga Chips” became such a hit that they were marketed and sold everywhere. It makes you wonder what people ate with their sandwich before. Or how they would add that extra fancy “crunch”. Because this was during the era of slavery in the United States, Crum, an African-American man, was denied any credit for his accidental discovery of potato chips. This was a huge injustice because he invented one of the world’s most popular snacks. One thing is for sure, he deserves all the credit in the world!
The exact origins of beer have been obscured for thousands of years. Some people might wonder how a beverage as popular as beer could have ever been a mistake. There’s evidence that places the accidental discovery of beer to several regions including Egypt, Mesopotamia, Iran, and China as far back as 7000 B.C. However, there is also evidence of the fermentation of this mysterious gruel-like substance as far back as 11,000 B.C. in what is today Israel. This time frame indicates that beer production began not very long after grains were cultivated for domestic production. Experts believe that the most likely scenario would have involved bread dough being left out in a rainstorm and that to the bread baker’s surprise, the wet dough would have begun to ferment. The chemistry behind this process is well understood today. Grains can begin spontaneous fermentation because of wild yeasts present in the air. This commercially produced beer was stored in nondescript clay jars. Today, of course, the situation is much different as giant breweries spend many millions of dollars marketing their beers with dramatic commercials and colorful packaging. People today think of beer purely as a recreational beverage, but to ancient civilizations, beer was a critical way to store extra grain before refrigeration and other forms of preserving perishable foods. Either way, beer is here to stay to make your happy hour way more enjoyable!
3. Crepes Suzette
No, crepes are not just fancy French pancakes, they’re actually pretty different. Crepes Suzette is a popular French dessert made of a thin crepe topped with caramelized sugar, butter, tangerine, and orange liqueur. It is often served with a table side performance as well – a flambé show that sets the dessert on fire! The accidental origins of crepes Suzette are equally as sweet. A fourteen-year-old assistant waiter in an elegant French restaurant made a fortuitous mistake. The year was 1895 and a young man was preparing a dessert in front of a distinguished group of guests when he accidentally set the dessert on fire. He was panicked until he tasted the flaming dessert and realized it was delicious. The assembled guests, including royalty, loved the sweet treat and the way the flame had brought out all the flavors. The now-famous dessert was named after a young woman who was present at the dinner, Suzette. This dessert is a staple at elegant restaurants around the world and is commonly depicted in movies because of the dramatic burst of flame that comes from setting the brandy on fire. Because of its popularity at exclusive restaurants, it’s likely most people have never actually tried crepe Suzette. This is not something being served up at IHOP.
2. C is for Chocolate Chip Cookie
Most people are so familiar with chocolate chip cookies that it might be hard to imagine a time when these iconic treats didn’t exist. However, the accidental discovery of chocolate chip cookies was fairly recent. It wasn’t until the 1930s that two chefs, Ruth Graves Wakefield and Sue Brides stumbled upon this particular cookie recipe. At the time, Wakefield and her husband owned the Toll House Inn in Whitman, Massachusetts, which was a popular restaurant. You might recognize the Toll House name as it is a well-known brand of chocolate chips that touts its own chocolate chip cookie recipe. According to the story, Mrs. Wakefield was making a batch of chocolate drop cookies but discovered she was out of baker’s chocolate. The resourceful chef improvised by chopping up a block of Nestle semi-sweet chocolate. She had intended for the chocolate to melt and blend with the dough, just as the baker’s chocolate would, resulting in chocolate cookies. But this is where fate intervened. Instead of dispersing throughout the cookie, the chocolate bits remained as individual semi-solids and the beloved chocolate chip cookie was born. Her “Chocolate Crunch Cookie” became an instant success at the inn. National attention came when Wakefield’s recipe was featured on Betty Crocker’s popular radio program. Wakefield cemented her cookie’s place in Americans’ hearts with her 1936 book, Toll House Tried and True Recipes. Who knows if the Cookie Monster would love cookies so much if the chocolate chip cookie were never invented?
1. The Earl of Sandwich
Sandwiches have become one of the most popular and recognized foods on the planet. They are renowned for their versatility and convenience and it was the latter that led to the sandwich being accidentally discovered in the 1700s, in England. According to the story, the 4th Earl of Sandwich, John Montagu, an avid gambler, was in the midst of a card game and did not want to leave the table to eat a regular meal. He instructed an attendant to bring him a snack made from meat placed between two pieces of bread. A simple solution to a small problem, but a solution that launched lunch as we know it today. What would lunch be without peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or without tuna fish sandwiches? One shudders to think that we’d all be stuck eating stews and casseroles. Without the Earl, there might not ever have been a McDonald’s or a Subway. The Earl had been satisfied with just meat and bread – simplicity itself, but today’s sandwich lovers can choose from any number of combinations of fillings, toppings, and breads. The modern day Earl of Sandwich is a fast food company that of course specializes in making all kinds of different sandwiches for our midday meal. This Earl of Sandwich offers a sandwich called the Original 1762, made with roast beef, to honor the man who gave his name to one of our most popular and accidental foods.