Cooking experiments can lead to split sauces, overdone meat, and unexpected flavors, causing frustrations in the kitchen. Whether a substitution fails or a recipe goes awry, creative cooking poses risks, and the more time spent experimenting, the higher the chance of mistakes.
However, culinary successes can also emerge unexpectedly, introducing delightful pairings or textures that become favorites. Throughout history, numerous favorite foods have originated from mistakes, influencing our lives today. For instance, bread remained flat for centuries until someone discovered that leaving dough in the sun causes it to expand.
Similarly, beer is believed to have originated from a bread-making mishap, and tofu might owe its existence to a chef accidentally curdling soy milk. This highlights how curiosity and clumsiness, alongside necessity, contribute to the culinary inventions of some of our favorite foods.
While it’s impossible to list them all, we explore some favorite foods that almost never came to be, ranging from sweet treats to savory snacks.
01. French fries
Credit for French fries is often given to villagers in a French-speaking region of Belgium. Traditionally, communities along the River Meuse would fry small fish for dinner, but when the river froze in winter, cutting off access to fish, they turned to potatoes.
Slicing them to resemble the little fish, they began frying them. Though this practice dates back to the 1600s, it’s believed that the term ‘French fries’ was coined during World War I when soldiers introduced the concept worldwide.
02. Ice lolly
Ice lollies have a sweet origin story as well. In 1905, eleven-year-old Frank Epperson inadvertently left a glass of powdered lemonade soda and water with a wooden stirrer outside overnight. With temperatures dropping, he discovered what is now considered the world’s first ice lolly.
Naming it the Epsicle, he sold them to neighborhood children. As an adult, Frank reintroduced the ice lolly in 1922 at a local firemen’s ball, which gained popularity. The following year, he patented his creation, known as Popsicles. Since then it has been one of the favorite foods for many!
03. Chocolate chip cookies
Chocolate chip cookies, now one of the global favorite foods, are thought to have originated by accident in 1930. Ruth Wakefield, co-owner of the Toll House Inn in Massachusetts, was baking a batch of cookies when she ran out of baker’s chocolate as per the recipe.
In a spontaneous decision, she crumbled a regular chocolate bar into the batter, expecting it to melt evenly. The outcome was the creation of the delightful, crunchy, gooey chocolate chip cookies that have since become beloved worldwide.
Unraveling the history of yogurt is a challenging task, with historians suggesting it was crafted in Turkey as early as the sixth century BC. The creation of yogurt is believed to have been serendipitous; the tale recounts that Central Asian herdsmen, lacking modern food preservation methods, stored excess goat’s milk in animal stomachs. Upon opening these makeshift containers, they discovered that the milk had thickened and soured due to the growth of beneficial bacteria.
05. Crisps (or chips)
The narrative of the accidental invention of crisps is one not to be taken too seriously. According to the story, in 1853, a cook named George Crum was working at a resort in Saratoga Springs, New York. He received an order for fried potatoes, but the customer consistently sent them back, claiming they were too thick. In an effort to satisfy the customer, George stopped chopping the potatoes and instead sliced them as thinly as possible before frying, giving rise to crisps.
While this is an engaging tale, it has been disputed over the years. Recipes for crisps date back to the early nineteenth century, predating George’s culinary career. Nevertheless, regardless of the accuracy of the story, we are certainly grateful for the existence of crisps as one of our favorite foods.
06. Mozzarella cheese
According to Italian legend, mozzarella may have been invented by a cheesemaker unintentionally. The story suggests that curdled milk accidentally fell into boiling water in a cheese factory near Naples, resulting in the creation of a rich, creamy delicacy that has since become one of the world’s favorite cheeses and favorite foods.
Legend also has it that blue cheese was created inadvertently, this time in a cave outside the village of Roquefort in France. Supposedly, a piece of bread left there became moldy and spread to the cheese, although historians remain skeptical about the authenticity of this tale.
07. Oyster sauce
In 1888, Lee Kum Sheung, busy running a food stall in Nanshui, China, accidentally left a big pot of oyster soup simmering on the stovetop for his lunchtime customers. Despite getting distracted, his momentary lapse resulted in the oysters simmering for many hours, reducing to a thick, brown paste with deeply savory flavors.
Lee Kum Sheung sold it to customers as a rice seasoning, and it turned out to be a popular hit.
7 Favorite foods that were invented by accident conclusion
Whether these tales lean more towards folklore or reality, the underlying lesson is evident: we should reconsider before disregarding our unsuccessful kitchen experiments. Had inventive chefs and cooks not transformed setbacks into opportunities throughout history, we might not have favorite foods (or culinary delights) like French fries or yogurt today. Just imagine what kind of world that would be!