I noticed that January 29th is National Corn Chip day (this is the kind of thing I notice) and it got me thinking, where in the world did corn chips come from in the first place? I found the answer on NPR in a segment called The Birth of the Frito. And you know what? The history of Fritos is great! To make a long story short, a 1930s corn-loving confectionery owner in Texas, Charles Elmer Doolin, was looking for a savory snack to serve, when he came across a man making a beach food staple from Mexico called fritos, “little fried things.” He perfected the recipe for the extruded and fried corn chips made from masa and began selling them in little bags. Doolin was an innovator and soon started mass-producing the chips, he eventually went national.
The ironic part is that Doolin, essentially the founder of convenience snack food, was a close follower of Dr. Herbert Shelton–a prominent American health educator, pacifist, vegetarian, and advocate of raw-foodism and fasting cures. The father of Fritos ate no meat, no fat, and no salt–he was a hard-core health food fanatic. Doolin envisioned Fritos as a side dish–a handful with a bowl of soup or salad. They are certainly not the worst offenders in the snack food category–they are vegan, in fact, and are comprised of only whole ground corn, corn oil and salt. But I just can’t imagine what Doolin would think to see a Big Grab bag of Fritos washed down with a 64-ounce Super Big Gulp of soda.
So, in honor of C.E. Doolin and National Corn Chip Day, here is a recipe for a homemade version of Fritos. (And to the Fritos fanatics trying this, please don’t be mad at me if these don’t look and taste exactly like fresh-from-the-bag Fritos; because they don’t. But…they’re homemade, and warm, and great in an almost-Fritos kind of way.)
1/2 cup organic stone-ground yellow cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup boiling water
1 teaspoon canola oil
1. Preheat oven to 375F degrees.
2. Combine cornmeal and salt in a mixing bowl. Pour in boiling water and stir, add olive oil, and stir until well blended.
3. Drop mixture by small teaspoonfuls onto a (very) well-greased baking sheet and smooth out as thinly as possible. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until golden brown.
Makes approximately 2 dozen chips.
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