From Popsicles to potato chips, coffee to chewing, some of our most ubiquitous and well-known foods came to be thanks to a little ingenuity, a dash of clumsiness, and quite a bit of luck.
Chocolate Chip Cookies
Is there anything more reassuring than a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie? So popular are these cookies that it's hard to believe they haven't been around forever when they only date back to the 1930s. The story behind Chocolate Chip cookies is that Ruth Wakefield was baking chocolate cookies at the Toll House restaurant.
However, she ran out of powdered baker's cocoa, so she settled on putting in pieces of a semi-sweet chocolate bar; the chocolate pieces only melted slightly. But her patrons preferred them, and soon enough, her recipe was up in a Boston newspaper!
Coffee is said to originate from a village in Ethiopia; a centuries-old legend has it that a goat herder noticed that his goats would become extremely hyper and not sleep at night after munching the berries from a particular tree. He reported this to a nearby monastery, and pretty soon, everyone was sipping on this energizing drink that inspired them to stay up late.
Eventually, those coffee beans reached the Arabian peninsula and spread all around the globe. Fast-forward to today; we can barely start our day without a jolt of caffeine from our favorite cup of java.
It's tough to imagine a world without nachos on the menu, but they're a surprisingly recent addition to Tex-Mex cuisine. According to nacho lore, they came about quite a by accident during World War II. Soldiers and their wives visited Mexico's Piedras Negras and its Victory Club.
Closing time was approaching, a man named Ignacio Anaya took on feeding the hungry guests, and he needed something fast. He found some fried tortilla strips, threw on some toppings, and served it up. That result became a now widely consumed favorite. When they asked what this delicious dish was called, he quickly made up a name, Nacho's Especiales. Today, we just call them nachos.
Although there are several versions of this account, cheese puffs were originally meant as food for animals! In the 1930s, Edward Wilson, from an animal food company, decided to try the puffed corn kernels and realized that it was quite tasty, and with a bit of seasoning, they could make a pretty decent snack.
So together with the founders of the Corporation he worked, they patented the recipe, and that's the story behind cheese puffs!
The Popsicle invention story is an interesting one. One night, in San Francisco in 1905, 11-year-old Frank Epperson was playing with his water and powdered soda mix; he left it out on his porch overnight, with the wooden stirrer still inside. When he returned to the mixture the next morning, the mixture was frozen to the stick, and as any 11-year-old would do, he tasted it, then quickly realizing what a radical discovery he'd made.
Frank had invented the Popsicle, which he presented to the American public in 1922 and then patented in 1924, which he sold to Popsicle sometime after 1929. So each summer, when you quickly eat up a Popsicle to cool yourself down, it's all thanks to Epperson's happy accident.
You might have trouble pronouncing it, but it's most likely something you may have used as a condiment or as an ingredient while following a recipe. According to one story, it was first invented by iconic Worcestershire sauce brand, Lea & Perrins. After a nobleman returned to England from a journey to India, he hired John Lea and William Perrins to recreate a sauce he'd tasted while traveling.
Their first attempt proved quite bitter and unpleasant, but the pair kept their concoction anyway. After tasting it again, they realized that maturing it had worked wonders and that now they had formulated something quite unique. It was first bottled in Worcester at the Lea & Perrins pharmacy, imparting it its name.
No matter how refined your tastebuds are or how expert-level your baking skills, one of the most indulgent baked goods originating from the United States remains chocolate brownies. There's just something about a chewy brownie that makes you feel like you're eight years old again.
The recipe for these feel-good treats was invented by Fanny Farmer, who simply adapted her chocolate cookies to be fit in a rectangular pan. Another saga surrounding chocolate brownies' origins talks about a chef accidentally adding too much chocolate into the batter. Either way, we're happy for this accidental attempt at cookies that turned into something much more comforting.
When it comes to sweet spreads, nobody quite compares to Nutella. The creamy, chocolatey spread infused with hazelnuts has been winning over mankind's hearts since it was first slathered on top of the bread. You may think it's something that showed up on the scene quite recently, but it's actually more than half a century old.
An Italian baker, Pietro Ferrero, was busy creating a chocolate alternative in the 1940s due to shortages during World War II. Little did Petro know that his mixture of hazelnuts, sugar, and a smidgen of cocoa would inspire a popular staple that has built its own cult following.
While potato chips weren't exactly invented by accident, them becoming the enduring popular snack they are today definitely was. In New York, a hotel chef invented potato chips after a customer sent back his fried potatoes and complained about them being too thick and soggy. The chef, George Crum, offended by the comment, made ultra-thin slices out of potatoes and over-cooked them.
These chips were served out of spite, but the very particular customer was so delighted with the crispy potato slices that they were eager to spread the word about this delicious snack and the chef who made it. Without Crum's impatience and eagerness to fight back, your favorite savory snack may never have been invented at all.
Chimichangas are fried burritos. Literally, and those deep-fried concoctions that deck many Mexican-American restaurants were also invented by a stroke of luck. The first chimichanga was created in Arizona at El Charro Café in 1922 by the original chef and owner, Monica Flin.
After she accidentally dropped a burrito into a deep fryer while it was frying tacos. She was about to swear in Spanish, but her nieces were around, so instead, she said the Spanish version of "thingamajig," giving her creation a name that's stuck.
Named after the United States' 50th state, you could argue that the Hawaiian pizza is an early prototype of a fusion dish: pizza with a tropical flair. As some foodies would say that putting pineapple on pizza is a practical joke, they are kind of right, as it was invented while two brothers were having fun.
The brothers emigrated to Canada from Greece in the '50s experimented with different ingredients at their restaurant, and back then, nobody mixed sweets with savory. One of them thought of throwing in some ham and pineapple to see how it would taste. Surely they had no clue that this topping would divide people over the years, with some loving it while others hate the mere fact that other people put pineapple on pizza.
While one may never know the true origin of cheese, one story tells a tale of cheese dating back more than 4,000 years of an Arabian merchant making it by accident. As the shepherd set out on a lengthy journey across a desert, he had a supply of milk in a sheep's stomach pouch.
The blaring heat and the fermenting enzymes in the pouch cured the cheese and separated the whey. And the traveler enjoyed the cheese. Eventually, the art of cheesemaking was brought from Asia to Europe, and now we can go crazy making cheese platters for our guests.
If you've ever traveled to St. Louis, the chances are that you've eaten toasted ravioli. The famed St. Louis food is a staple in many restaurants in the area, but it has a bit of a contentious origin story.
What we do know about the beginnings of Toasted Ravioli is that they were invented by a German cook who was cooking up some pasta while he clumsily dropped some ravioli in the deep fryer. With a finishing touch of Parmesan, they were sent out to the bar in an effort to make due. The diners loved them and the rest, as they like to say, is history.
Supposedly, brandy was made to supplement wine to make it through prolonged, and sometimes even intercontinental voyages. In the early 1500s, a Dutch merchant invented the way to ship more wine when he had little cargo space by cleverly removing water from the wine.
When they reached their destination port, he could add the water back to the concentrated wine. As it would be stored in wooden barrels, the original distilled flavor became more palatable. They called it "bradwijn," meaning "burned wine," which later became known as "brandy."
Apparently, beer was first discovered by Mesopotamian communities about 6,000 years ago. Fermenting their cereal grains would result in beer, and this was likely a delightful accident. Beer was enjoyed by the Egyptians, where workers were partially paid in beer spiced with olives, dates, and other seemingly exotic ingredients.
Beer as we know it now began to emerge in the Middle Ages when monks and others started experimenting with hops. Next time you drink a cold beer, just remember that what you're drinking was 6,000 years in the making. Now that's pretty cool!
Although there are pink lemons, their juice is disappointingly dull and colorless, and one of the many different versions tells us why this special lemonade was pink.
In 1857, Pete Conklin was selling regular lemonade at the circus when he ran out of water and accidentally grabbed a tub of dirty water where a performer had just rinsed her pink-colored tights. He marketed it as this new ‘strawberry lemonade,’ and since then, the word spread about ‘pink lemonade’ available to satisfy your thirst, surely now without dirty sock water.
The story behind Tarte Tatin's came from Hotel Tatin, 100 miles south of Paris, run by two sisters, was this famous pastry's birthplace. Stephanie Tatin, one of the sisters, was so exhausted that she overcooked apples in butter and sugar.
She smelled apples burning in the pan; even though they were meant to be for a traditional apple pie, she covered it with a pastry base and then jammed it inside the oven. She decided to present the apple pie regardless, and it proved to be a pure success among their guests.
The ice cream cone comes in various different forms. The softer cone is associated with soft serve, the harder, crunchier type, and everyone's favorite, waffle cones. But these cones have an unusual story going back more than a century. Even though Italo Marchiony was awarded a patent for producing his ice cream cone in December 1903 in New York, it was a pastry vendor named Ernest A. Hamwi whose invention at the St. Louis World's Fair in 1904 that was made in a hurry.
He ran out of dishes to serve the ice cream on, so Hamwi quickly rolled up a freshly baked waffle-like pastry that had cooled down and then placed the ice cream on top. The customers couldn't have been happier. This may be solid proof that sometimes necessity is the mother of invention.
We can all thank poker for the accidental invention of sandwiches, which are perhaps America's favorite lunch food. John Montagu, the 4th Earl of Sandwich, was settled at the gambling table and unwilling to leave, so he requested something to munch while he continued playing cards.
His cook brought him meat sandwiched between two slices of bread. The Earl was a fan, and soon the dish became popular, eventually being named after the town where its original eater was from. Nowadays, of course, sandwiches come in every style and shape; their convenience and ease of making are just some things we most love about them.
Before Stonehenge was erected, before the Egyptians built the pyramids, we made yogurt before we even invented the wheel! Evidence suggests yogurt existed as early as 6,000 BC. Our Neolithic ancestors began domesticating livestock, put some goat milk in a leather pouch, and after a while in the sun, yogurt was made - similar to cheese, by the way.
Since then, almost every culture (pun intended) and the country has begun to consume yogurt - whether it's topped with fruit and granola, served as a blended drink with rosewater, or used in recipes.
Coca-Cola has reached a level of brand-recognition envied by many companies. There aren't many places you can't grab a Coke — if you're driving through Djibouti and get a craving for a Coke, guess what? You can pick one up even in this semi-desert in Africa. That's the kind of power Coke has; when aliens arrive on Earth, they'll be like, "Oh, you guys have Coke too? That's neat."
Apparently, Coca-Cola was designated as a medicine when John Pemberton invented it back in 1885. He promoted it as 'brain tonic and intellectual beverage,' keeping the recipe under wraps but not hiding the fact that it contained a secret extracted from the coca leaf and caffeine from kola nuts (ergo, the name Coca-Cola). During Prohibition, it became popular as a 'soft' drink as people enjoyed its taste, without the added addictive stimulants, of course.
Granny Smith Apples
Granny Smith apples are amazing because: they're practically never mealy; they have a long shelf life. Whether they're raw or baked, they're still delicious.
"Granny" Smith was a real Australian lady that lived around the 1830s named Maria Ann Smith who tossed a bunch of rotten crabapples out of her kitchen window and into her backyard; these grew into a tree that accidentally spawned a different type of apple, her namesake apple. A very good apple indeed. So she patented it, and it soon became the most popular cooking apple around the world.
Slurpees are yet another snack food invented by accident. Omar Knedlik owned an old Dairy Queen in Kansas City in the late-1950s, and the machinery wasn't working well. When the soda fountain was acting up, he put some bottles in the freezer to keep them cold.
He probably left them in there too long, as when he opened them to serve, they had a slushy consistency rather than liquid. Customers liked them, though, and he began to receive requests for them. Now the movie theater and gas station staples make for the sweetest of sweet treats, perfect for when summer temperatures soar.
There are many origin stories, with one legend telling of a cook's clumsiness in ancient China. He accidentally mixed this natural coagulant called nigari in with soybean milk.
So the ancient people of China began to make tofu - bean curd - a food item particularly enjoyed by anyone preferring vegetarian meals. Although it originated in China some 2,000 years ago, tofu only arrived in western kitchens in the 20th century.
A French waiter named Henri Charpentier said he was the one who invented the Crêpe Suzette while working in Monte Carlo. After unintentionally burning the sauce, Charpentier said he was making crêpes for a collection of influential and powerful restaurant patrons.
One of those diners, the Prince of Wales, who later became known as Britain's King Edward VII, enjoyed it so much that he demanded that it be named after the woman he was with, and her name was Suzette. Nowadays, Crêpe Suzette might be considered a little fussy or formal for many restaurants, but the fancy dessert will forever have a place in culinary folklore.
It's not difficult to believe that Blue Cheese was at first simply a forgotten cheese! In the 7th century, a scatterbrained sheepherder in the village of Roquefort, France, forgot his lunch in a cave one day.
He returned several months later only to find his cheese infested with penicillium roqueforti, a mold growing there. He was brave enough to try the foul-smelling cheese, and with a grin on his face, he was surprised how good it tasted. Today, the natural mold culture is simply added to the cheese milk.
Hot Nashville Chicken
They say revenge is a dish served cold; in this case, it was meant to be flaming hot chicken. According to rumors, Nashville hot chicken was invented accidentally-on-purpose at Nashville's famed Prince's Hot Chicken Shack by the current owner's great-uncle Thornton Prince's lover.
She was suspicious of her lover cheating on her, so to get back at him, she served him a fried hot chicken, but with an extreme amount of pepper. To her surprise, Prince loved the spicy chicken and soon began to serve it at his Chicken Shack. And now, all those years later, it's become a complete sensation.
It seems that on long voyages sailing all around the world due to growing trade during the 16th and 17th century, European wines were bound to spoil on the long trip.
The brilliant winemakers were clever enough to fortify the wine and did so by adding a dash of brandy to stabilize it. Therefore, they prepared it to withstand the temperature differences.
This iconic breakfast cereal also came about due to a bit of an accidental twist of fate. Corn flakes were invented by brothers William and John Kellogg in the late 1800s; the two worked at a Seventh Day Adventist sanitarium where vegetarianism and healthy nutrition were key values.
Looking for a replacement for bread for their patients in the sanitarium, the Kellogg brothers boiled wheat. However, they unintentionally boiled it too long, and when they rolled it out, it crumbled apart into flakes, which they decided to toast in the oven. Their patients both thought they were tasty, and William had the idea to develop the recipe with corn instead of wheat, leading to the cereal you know of today.
The most celebratory of drinks almost wasn't invented at all. It was a complete coincidence that Champagne was created by accident in the 1490s. A changing climate in the Champagne region shortened the growing season and caused bottles to undergo a second fermentation when it warmed up in the spring, only to release carbon dioxide gas, popping the weak stoppers on their bottles.
What was once seen as a catastrophe eventually became something to celebrate in its own right. Winemakers managed to keep the bottles intact by adjusting their glassware accordingly, and today, we have something bubbly to celebrate special occasions with!
Buffalo wings are the perfect storm of American snacking ingenuity, a bar food forged from Anchor Bar in Buffalo, New York.
One of two different versions claims that during the late 1960s, the barkeeper's mother, Teresa Bellismo, received an incorrect shipment of chicken wings when she actually ordered chicken necks. So she took the scraps usually meant for the soup stocks and decided to fry them and toss them in her signature sauce for their friends at the bar.
While it may seem like a new invention, people have been chewing gum for centuries, all the way back to when the Mayas and Aztecs chewed on chicle, a natural rubbery substance extracted from sapodilla trees. Sounds tempting, right?
But it wasn't until Thomas Adams Sr. got a supply of chicle through an exiled Mexican President in the mid-1800s that he tried to transform the chicle into an industrial material, only to note that when boiled and formed into pieces, and soon it was sold like chewing gum.
We would never have thought that raisins were originally used as a decoration in 2000 BC in the Mediterranean. It took a few centuries for humankind to put a dried grape in their mouth and realize that perhaps it was ok to eat them dry.
Before becoming popular trading items, raisins were also used as prizes for sporting events and even medicine.
Although the true beginnings of this English dessert are not fully known, sources have it that it may have started in the town of Bakewell (obviously) back in the 1820s.
Mrs. Greaves had a cook working at the White Horse Inn who didn't follow the recipe properly. Instead of stirring the egg together with the almond paste and the pastry, she ended up smearing it on top of the jam. The baked mixture set like egg custard and soon became their customer's favorite dish.
Artificial sweeteners became a charming alternative to real sugar because they add virtually zero calories with only need a fraction of the powdery substance to reach an intense level of sweetness.
The story goes like this: In 1879, Constantin Fahlberg, a chemist at Johns Hopkins University, must have forgotten to wash his hands after work when he noticed a sweet taste on his palm. It was connected to overboiled chemicals - and he then tested the mixture and, upon returning to Germany, started producing the first artificial sweetener: Saccharin.
If you've ever visited an amusement park or been to the mall, you've probably had your fair share of these tiny little ice cream balls. It turns out, Dippin' Dots have been going strong since 1988, and they most certainly have it trademarked or at least cryogenically frozen.
Curt Jones was developing a flash-freezing process using liquid nitrogen while in a lab in Lexington, KY. He was churning homemade ice cream at home and aimed his liquid nitrogen rays at that homemade ice cream, and that's how Dippin' Dots were born.
Bread is important in many cultures; it is the center of every meal. It's what you stick in the toaster every morning, a required participant in your brown bag lunch, and how do you even eat at a restaurant without those freshly baked buns? But who of you have ever paused to ponder the origins of this dietary staple?
According to Michael Pollan, Ancient Egyptians crushed wheat and added water; then, they baked it to form flatbreads. But on one fateful day, the mixture was left overnight, and the gluten began to rise, so curious to see what would happen, they baked this miraculous rising concoction, and that's how bread came to be.
Popcorn doesn't grow in the cornfield on stalks as the big, puffed stuff you buy when you go to a movie. How, then, does it get from its origins as a super hard, yellow kernel and into your bowl of popcorn as a yummy snack?
French explorers wrote of American tribes in the 1700's popping kernels of corn in pottery jars filled with heated sand. This method somehow spread throughout the Great Lakes region, so settlers to upstate New York, Vermont, and Quebec were likely the earliest European-American popcorn makers.
Love 'em or hate 'em, TV dinners are a staple food in many American homes. From low-cost budget dishes to higher-end organic dinners, aisles are fully stocked with these pre-made, ready-to-eat meals. And while some evolved far beyond their humble meat-and-potato origins, some have remained true to their classic form.
Despite attempts in the early 1940s to break into the ready-meal market, it wasn't until Swanson Foods made a business blunder that left it with 520,000lbs of excess turkey after Thanksgiving in 1953 that TV dinners triumphantly made their way into households. Ticked-off bosses requested their staff to think up a way to avoid wasting it, and a ready-made meal that looked like a TV was the answer.
Soda floats are a classic explosion of cold refreshment that we haven’t thought much about since we graduated high school. The most well-known story of the soda float dates back to the late 19th century. Robert Green, an owner of a soda shop in Philly, would use carbonated water, sugar syrup, and cream to make beverages.
However, one day he ran out of whipped cream and decided to used ice cream instead. But this story has a few contenders, one where George Guy, one of Robert Green’s employees, alleges he was the inventor.
They're a must-have at the movies, a popular trick-or-treat snack, and good for just crunching away the stress of being an American. But did you know Licorice Allsorts has a fascinating history unparalleled among most other candy?
The idea for Bassetts Liquorice Allsorts was quite literally stumbled upon in 1899 when a fumbling company rep Charlie Thompson tripped over, sending rows of neatly separated sweets flying. On seeing the bright mix of shapes and colors jumbled together, a customer was inspired and immediately placed an order for a mixed delivery, which eventually snowballed into their success.
The generally accepted story of British dessert Eton mess is that a strawberry, meringue, and cream pudding was dropped at an Eton College vs. Harrow School cricket match in the late 19th century.
Rather than waste the food, it was simply scooped up off the floor and served as is in individual bowls. The first record of Eton mess ever published dates back to 1893.
There seems to be an agreement among jelly bean experts and other knowledgeable beings about this candy's origins. Many experts believe jelly beans are a descendant of a Middle Eastern treat known as Turkish Delight.
If you're not familiar with Turkish Delight, it is a Turkish delicacy with a gummy-like center that is a mixture of starch, sugar, and chopped fruit or nuts. It was also in the mid-1800s when an unknown candy maker in Boston reportedly took Turkish Delights and experimented with them; eventually, he created a smooth shell — to form jelly beans as we know them today.
Peanut butter is the stuff of junior lunches, and there are days where you just need to eat a decent spoonful directly from the jar; it's so good. It's tasty, filling, and salty, and it's perfect when you pair it with chocolate, right?
You may have learned that George Washington Carver invented it ... but we'll have to stop you right there as that's just not true. The general idea of peanut butter goes a long way back — all the way to the Aztecs, who used to grind roasted peanuts into a paste to treat tooth pain as it was easy to swallow without chewing. Peanut butter was first patented back in 1884 in Montreal by Marcellus G. Edson.
Everyone has their likes and dislikes, and Candy corn is pretty much the sweet version of the love-or-hate food. Nobody is entire 100 percent certain who invented this super sugary treat, but it's been around for a long time. It was first sold as "Chicken Feed," and it was a candy that picked its bright idea from an industry that helped build America: agriculture. There's a bit of irony here, also.
When candy corn was first becoming popular, corn wasn't a dietary staple... at least, not for people. Before the turn of the century, corn was purely meant as animal feed. It wasn't until the time of World War I that eating corn was necessary, and before that, corn-shaped candy would have been a fun novelty.
Back in the 50s, the All-American thing was to have a white picket fence and a stay-at-home mom who eagerly poured you orange juice for breakfast.
In the early 1900s, drinking orange juice was unheard of. The California Fruit Growers Exchange hired Albert Lasker to help them sell more oranges ... So Lasker thought, why not drink oranges? It was marketed as a cure-all for general lethargy and even an obscure ailment called "acidosis." Sure enough, Americans bought in big time.
Every country and culture has its own relationship to spices; some are wide and diverse, like Indian or Mexican cuisines, while others are subtle and mild, like Russian or Polish. But if you didn't grow up in a culture with an appreciation for spices, cooking with it may seem to be as intimidating as it is crucial.
Early writings suggest that hunters and gatherers used to wrap their meat in the leaves of bushes, and by doing this, they accidentally discovered that this process enhanced the meat's taste, bringing along some flavors to it as well. Over the years, spices were soon being used for medicinal purposes.
It turns out that ketchup traveled a long, winding, and the sometimes controversial road to becoming the well-loved condiment it is today.
Ketchup was initially made from all sorts of things, like mushrooms and strawberries, and its beginning can be traced back to ancient Asia. The condiment actually started as fermented fish paste. It's impossible to tell who first stumbled on the idea of making ketchup from tomatoes, but we do know one of the first recipes for tomato ketchup dates to 1812, from Dr. James Mease.
Japanese-born chef Hidekazu Tojo claimed he created the California roll at his restaurant in the late 1970s. He insists he is the innovator of the "inside-out" sushi.
Tojo knew sushi would be more appealing to his American customers if he could hide the seaweed, so he concealed the seaweed by placing it on the inside of the roll and called it a "California roll." And that started the sushi craze we still enjoy today!