Culinary Mistakes
Iconic Foods – By Accident

Sourdough – discovered by accident Photo (detail): Aphra Adkins @ stilllifewithcake

Aphra Adkins and Natalie Wichmann

Ice-cream cones, cornflakes, chocolate chip cookies, all these popular foods only seem to be the result of studious work by a professional cook, when in fact they were invented by a happy accident in someone’s kitchen. We asked food photographer Aphra Adkins for her interpretation of ten beloved provisions that were invented by mistake.
 
  • Legend has it that Benedictine monk Dom Perignon, cellar master at the Hautvillers Abbey in the Champagne region of France, invented Champagne in 1693. Tasked with getting rid of the annoying bubbles in the wine bottles, Perignon gave up after many failed attempts. Instead, he opened one of the botched bottles, tasted it, and fervently exclaimed: “Come quickly, I’m drinking the stars!”  Aphra Adkins @ stilllifewithcake
    Legend has it that Benedictine monk Dom Perignon, cellar master at the Hautvillers Abbey in the Champagne region of France, invented Champagne in 1693. Tasked with getting rid of the annoying bubbles in the wine bottles, Perignon gave up after many failed attempts. Instead, he opened one of the botched bottles, tasted it, and fervently exclaimed: “Come quickly, I’m drinking the stars!”
  • Originally designed to cure an upset stomach and prevent excessive masturbation (yep, you read that right), brothers John Harvey and Will Keith Kellogg, both Seventh-day Adventists working at the Battle Creek Sanatorium in Michigan, invented cornflakes by accident. One day in 1894, they left some cooked wheat to attend urgent matters at the sanatorium. When they came back, the wheat was stale, but being on an extremely strict budget, they tried to salvage it by pressing it through rollers. Instead of the expected flat wheat dough, they ended up with flakes, which they toasted and served very successfully to the patients. Aphra Adkins @ stilllifewithcake
    Originally designed to cure an upset stomach and prevent excessive masturbation (yep, you read that right), brothers John Harvey and Will Keith Kellogg, both Seventh-day Adventists working at the Battle Creek Sanatorium in Michigan, invented cornflakes by accident. One day in 1894, they left some cooked wheat to attend urgent matters at the sanatorium. When they came back, the wheat was stale, but being on an extremely strict budget, they tried to salvage it by pressing it through rollers. Instead of the expected flat wheat dough, they ended up with flakes, which they toasted and served very successfully to the patients.
  • Ruth Wakefield only got a dollar for her famous chocolate chip cookie recipe from Nestlé. But let’s back up a bit: Wakefield invented said recipe while running the popular Toll House restaurant with her husband Keith in Whitman, Massachusetts in the late 1930s. She ran out of nuts for her regular ice-cream-accompanying cookie and instead added some broken-up chunks of chocolate from a bar of bittersweet Nestlé chocolate. Voila: the chocolate chip cookie was created! And it was perfect timing, too, since the chocolate chip cookie proved to be the perfect antidote for the Great Depression! Aphra Adkins @ stilllifewithcake
    Ruth Wakefield only got a dollar for her famous chocolate chip cookie recipe from Nestlé. But let’s back up a bit: Wakefield invented said recipe while running the popular Toll House restaurant with her husband Keith in Whitman, Massachusetts in the late 1930s. She ran out of nuts for her regular ice-cream-accompanying cookie and instead added some broken-up chunks of chocolate from a bar of bittersweet Nestlé chocolate. Voila: the chocolate chip cookie was created! And it was perfect timing, too, since the chocolate chip cookie proved to be the perfect antidote for the Great Depression!
  • Arnold Fornachou was pretty busy manning the ice-cream booth during the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904. As he was running out of paper cups, fate had it that he found himself next to the waffle vendor Ernest Hamwi. He bought some of his waffles, rolled them into a cone, added the ice cream on top, and voila – he had invented the ice cream cone out of necessity. Of course, this is only one of the stories surrounding the invention of one of the most beloved sweets eaten around the world!  Aphra Adkins @ stilllifewithcake
    Arnold Fornachou was pretty busy manning the ice-cream booth during the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904. As he was running out of paper cups, fate had it that he found himself next to the waffle vendor Ernest Hamwi. He bought some of his waffles, rolled them into a cone, added the ice cream on top, and voila – he had invented the ice cream cone out of necessity. Of course, this is only one of the stories surrounding the invention of one of the most beloved sweets eaten around the world!
  • Henri Carpentier, a 14-year-old waiter at Monte Carlo’s Café in Paris, invented Crepes Suzette while preparing a dessert for the Prince of Wales in 1895 when, in a chafing dish, the liquor used for the sauce caught on fire. Running out of time to prepare a new dish – mind you, there was a future king waiting! – Henri tasted the dish, deemed it perfection, and decided to serve it. After the dinner, he was called to the table and asked for the name of the dessert. He answered, “Crêpes Princess,” but since there was a lady present, His Majesty asked to rename it after her: “Crêpes Suzette.”  Aphra Adkins @ stilllifewithcake
    Henri Carpentier, a 14-year-old waiter at Monte Carlo’s Café in Paris, invented Crepes Suzette while preparing a dessert for the Prince of Wales in 1895 when, in a chafing dish, the liquor used for the sauce caught on fire. Running out of time to prepare a new dish – mind you, there was a future king waiting! – Henri tasted the dish, deemed it perfection, and decided to serve it. After the dinner, he was called to the table and asked for the name of the dessert. He answered, “Crêpes Princess,” but since there was a lady present, His Majesty asked to rename it after her: “Crêpes Suzette.”
  • When 11-year-old Frank Epperson came home from a long day of playing with his friends in 1905, he forgot his soda, including the stirring stick, on the front porch. The night was very cold, and when he returned the next morning it was frozen. Then and there, he declared that the “Epsicle” was the new treat in town. It caught on with his friends and family and when he had kids himself, they called it “Pop’s ’sicle.” For the patent he filed in 1923, he shortened it to “Popsicle.” Aphra Adkins @ stilllifewithcake
    When 11-year-old Frank Epperson came home from a long day of playing with his friends in 1905, he forgot his soda, including the stirring stick, on the front porch. The night was very cold, and when he returned the next morning it was frozen. Then and there, he declared that the “Epsicle” was the new treat in town. It caught on with his friends and family and when he had kids himself, they called it “Pop’s ’sicle.” For the patent he filed in 1923, he shortened it to “Popsicle.”
  • A begruntled chef and a dissatisfied customer was all it took to invent potato chips, so the myth goes. In 1853, New York chef George Crum served Cornelius Vanderbilt dinner that he then sent back to the kitchen: the fries where too thick. Crum wasn’t happy, so he shaved off super thin slices of a potato, fried them, and send them out as chips to spite Vanderbilt. Vanderbilt was delighted, and the potato chip was born. Aphra Adkins @ stilllifewithcake
    A begruntled chef and a dissatisfied customer was all it took to invent potato chips, so the myth goes. In 1853, New York chef George Crum served Cornelius Vanderbilt dinner that he then sent back to the kitchen: the fries where too thick. Crum wasn’t happy, so he shaved off super thin slices of a potato, fried them, and send them out as chips to spite Vanderbilt. Vanderbilt was delighted, and the potato chip was born.
  • Today, not washing your hands is icky (and quite dangerous), but not washing his hands helped chemist Constantine Fahlberg get rich in 1879. While working on finding coal tar derivatives at Johns Hopkins University, he noticed one day during lunch that his bread tasted unusually sweet. He realized that he had forgotten to wash his hands before eating, and the chemical he worked with that day, benzoic sulfimide, had a sweet taste to it. He filed a patent for an artificial sweetener in 1884, calling the product saccharin and starting production in Magdeburg, Germany two years later. Aphra Adkins @ stilllifewithcake
    Today, not washing your hands is icky (and quite dangerous), but not washing his hands helped chemist Constantine Fahlberg get rich in 1879. While working on finding coal tar derivatives at Johns Hopkins University, he noticed one day during lunch that his bread tasted unusually sweet. He realized that he had forgotten to wash his hands before eating, and the chemical he worked with that day, benzoic sulfimide, had a sweet taste to it. He filed a patent for an artificial sweetener in 1884, calling the product saccharin and starting production in Magdeburg, Germany two years later.
  • Some 2000 years ago, during the Han Dynasty, there was a cook in China who accidentally mixed his boiled, ground soybeans with impure sea salt that curdled the mixture and produced a tofu-like substance. According to legend, though, tofu did not become popular in China until the Song Dynasty (960-1279). Aphra Adkins @ stilllifewithcake
    Some 2000 years ago, during the Han Dynasty, there was a cook in China who accidentally mixed his boiled, ground soybeans with impure sea salt that curdled the mixture and produced a tofu-like substance. According to legend, though, tofu did not become popular in China until the Song Dynasty (960-1279).
  • Making bread is probably as old as humankind (at least since humans invented fire). But the first recorded use of sourdough stems from the ancient Egyptians around 1500 BC, and it was most likely discovered by accident. When leaving out a piece of dough for a certain amount of time, wild yeasts in the air would attach themselves to the dough and make it rise. Since the ancient Egyptians used to brew beer and bake bread in the same facilities, the yeast-heavy air of the brewery might have helped as well.  Aphra Adkins @ stilllifewithcake
    Making bread is probably as old as humankind (at least since humans invented fire). But the first recorded use of sourdough stems from the ancient Egyptians around 1500 BC, and it was most likely discovered by accident. When leaving out a piece of dough for a certain amount of time, wild yeasts in the air would attach themselves to the dough and make it rise. Since the ancient Egyptians used to brew beer and bake bread in the same facilities, the yeast-heavy air of the brewery might have helped as well.

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