Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Review: George Crum and the Saratoga Chip

George Crum and the Saratoga Chip, by Gaylia Taylor, takes a personal approach to that staple of the American diet--the potato chip.

George was not much of a student when young, despite the fact his older sister Kate tried to help him. Moreover, "it was difficult for George and Kate growing up in the 1830s. They were part Native American and part African American, at a time when people of color in the United States were often treated as inferior to white people." And, as with mathematics, George was understandably frustrated by this injustice.

One day George meets a Frenchman who teaches him to cook. And with that, George finds his passion. Through much trouble, George gets a job as a chef in Saratoga Springs. His "canvasback duck" became famous, but the customers were often demanding. One day, a picky customer requests that George cut his French fries more thinly. In a fit of pique, George slices the potatoes as thinly as humanly possible and the potato chip was born.

Eventually George opens his own restaurant where "rich or poor, light-skinned or dark, young or old, female or male, everybody had to wait just the same, because everyone was equal at Crum's Place!"

Frank Morrison's illustrations are a delight--full of color, chaos, and movement. His figures are elongated and expressive. They're a perfect fit for this story of an active, intelligent man with a need to perfect his art.