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Happy Food Accidents

Happy Food Accidents

Experimentation, particularly with food, can lead to some very trashcan worthy results. I have been the author of such misguided creations that have barely been tasted before they were disposed of, and hopefully forgotten. But for every horrible culinary accident there is…well maybe for every few hundred horrible culinary accidents, there are a handful of happy accidents that reveal a new flavor or food experience: Kind of like Louis Pasteur’s discovery of penicillin, in a culinary kind of way.

I was reminded of this by some research I was doing this past spring that revealed the fabled beginnings of cheese. As the story goes, an Arab trader decided to transport some fresh milk in a disembodied sheep’s stomach while riding on camelback. The naturally occurring rennet in the sheep’s stomach, as well as the desert heat and the constant sloshing of the camel’s stride, resulted in the first recorded instance of curdled milk, otherwise known as cheese.

Writer Lizzie Enfield recently delved into the subject for The Guardian recently and reported about the origins of many of these unlikely creations. Here she profiles the humble beginnings of the potato chip:

“A fit of pique led chef George Crum to the invention of potato crisps. A customer at his Saratoga Springs restaurant complained this French fries were too thick. Crum sliced potatoes as thin as he could and deep-fried them until they were hard, then sent them out to the complainer, who loved them.”

What are some of your happy food accidents, if you have any? What are some of the food items you detest that seem more like accidents than anything?

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Eric Steinman

Eric Steinman is a freelance writer based in Rhinebeck, NY. He regularly writes about food, music, art, architecture, and culture and is a regular contributor to Bon Appétit among other publications.


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1:50AM PDT on Apr 24, 2013


10:51AM PST on Jan 31, 2013

None of my accidents were ever edible. A lot of my non-accidents aren't edible either. As you can guess, I'm not a great cook.

12:05PM PST on Dec 22, 2012

I've often wondered how certain foods were "discovered" to be edible: artichokes, love 'em but who figured that out? and that fermented shark thing in Iceland, really? we can't cook it fresh, let's let it rot and then eat it! wow, how'd that happen?

6:18AM PST on Dec 20, 2012

This reminds me of the joke I found on Facebook today: 'I thought air was free until I bought a bag of potato chips.'

6:17AM PST on Dec 20, 2012


6:03AM PST on Dec 20, 2012

Thanks :)

4:55PM PST on Dec 19, 2012


9:27AM PDT on Oct 13, 2012


1:54PM PDT on Sep 28, 2012


4:11AM PDT on Sep 23, 2012

I never thought peanut sauce sounded appetizing until I tried it (especially when it was described as peanut butter sauce- even though I love peanut butter, I didn't see how it could taste good on vegetables.) Once I realized it was peanut based but with soy sauce and other flavorings, it made more sense- it is so good mixed with broccoli, short pasta and edamame.

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