5 Foods from New York State

by Sandra Scott

Food, glorious food! I have often wondered who first decided to eat a snail or pulled a carrot out of the ground and ate it. It has all been lost in antiquity, but some of the items found on menus worldwide can trace their beginnings to New York state.

1. Wings

Buffalos may not have wings, but the Anchor Bar in Buffalo does. The Anchor Bar is the birthplace of the world-famous Buffalo wings. Late on a Friday night in 1964, Dominic Bellissimo was tending bar at the family’s Anchor Bar Restaurant when a group of his friends arrived looking for something to stave off their hunger pangs. Dominic’s mother deep-fried the chicken wings destined for the soup stockpot. Flavoured with her secret sauce, the wings were an instant hit and the word spread—worldwide.


Credit: Sandra Scott

2. Dressing

Thousand Island dressing is found in salad bars worldwide, but people seldom know the name comes from the islands in the St. Lawrence River. Legend has it that around the turn of the century, Sophia LaLonde, wife of a local fishing guide, shared her dressing recipe with a prominent stage actress named May Irwin, who dubbed it Thousand Island dressing. Irwin gave the recipe to fellow summer visitor George C. Boldt, the owner of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York. He instructed that the dressing be included on the hotel’s menu.

3. Potato Chips

Credit: Sandra Scott

The original potato chip was created in Saratoga Springs in 1853 at Moon’s Lake House where George Crum worked as a cook. The specialty of the house was Moon’s Fried Potatoes, which were cut in thick slices. A picky guest sent his order back, declaring they were too thick and soggy. When the second order was also sent back, Crum was not appreciative of the criticism—he sliced the potatoes as thin as he could, fried them until they were crisp, and salted them thinking he had made them impossible to eat with a fork. Much to Crum’s surprise the patron loved them and ordered a second serving. The word spread and soon others were ordering Crum’s Chips.

4. Jell-O

In 1897, Pearle Wait of Le Roy came up with a fruit-flavoured dessert gelatin, which his wife named Jell-O. In 1899 he sold his formula to a fellow townsman for the sum of $450 who sent out salesmen in “spanking new rigs, drawn by beautiful horses” to promote this new product destined to make dessert preparation easier for the housewife. As the saying goes, the rest is history. Visitors can learn all about “America’s Most Famous Dessert” at the Jell-O Gallery in LeRoy.

5. Salt Potatoes

A local favourite that is hard to find outside Central New York owes its existence to the salt deposits near Syracuse, the “Salt City.” During the 18th century, workers in the salt industry on Onondaga Lake would cook their lunch of potatoes—very small ones that were not saleable—in a salty brine. The tasty treats are best served with plenty of butter and are a staple item at clam bakes. The salt industry is no more, but visitors can learn about it at the Salt Museum in Liverpool.


Credit: Sandra Scott


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