Delicious Accidents: The History Behind Some Of Your Favorite Foods

Top chefs spend years traveling the world finding the perfect ingredients, spending hours cooking over a hot stove, and taking precious time plating the perfect dish. Some of the best food in the world can be a decade in the making. Other foods…not so much. Sometimes a quick stroke of genius or a series of unfortunate events can leave someone with one of the best accidental food inventions.

That’s exactly what happened to the Fourth Earl of Sandwich — can you guess what he stumbled upon? And the ice cream waffle cone was all thanks to a busy World’s Fair. Read on to learn about how your favorite foods were concocted in just a few minutes.

Margherita Pizza Is Fit For A Queen

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The pizza was a common-folk food for years until the Royals picked it up and popularized it. The first royal to do this was Queen Margherita of Savoy. She visited Naples and, in her honor, Chef Raffaele Esposito created a pizza to resemble the Italian flag.

They used red tomato, white mozzarella, and green basil and made the Italian flag and a delicious pizza. Queen Margherita loved it so much that she began to order her personal chefs to make the same pizza, and now it’s a fan favorite.

Nashville Hot Chicken Was A Revenge Dish

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Some of the best stories come from revenge, and apparently, so does the best food. The famously hot chicken is all thanks to one man, Thornton Prince III, making his girlfriend extra angry. He came home a little too late one night and she “surprised” him with dinner.

Thornton’s girlfriend made his favorite fried chicken but added tons of extra cayenne and spice. Surprisingly, Thornton loved the heat, made a few tweaks to the recipe, and sold it at his BBQ shack.

Thank Ruth Wakefield For The Chocolate Chip Cookie

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Home baker Ruth Wakefield was making cookies to serve at her inn back in 1930 but ran out of baking chocolate. To make up for it, she decided to smash up a regular semisweet chocolate bar and add the pieces to the batter. Since the chocolate was different and didn’t melt together, they stayed as little chocolate chunks in the cookie.

The cookies became a hit with her patrons at the Toll House Inn. Sound familiar?

We Can Thank A Picky Customer For Potato Chips

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A customer at the Saratoga Spings’ Moon Lake House kept sending their food back to Chef George Crum. The customer kept complaining that their fried potatoes were far too thick to eat.

Crum continued to send new fried potatoes out but they were never thin enough. Finally, he chopped up the last batch of potatoes as thin as possible, friend, and salted them. The customer was pleased and the crunchy fried potatoes became a hit at the Lake House.

Thank On-The-Spot Improvisation For Nachos

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Ignacio “Nacho” Anaya was faced with a difficult situation in 1943 when a group of ten military wives entered his restaurant in Piedras Negras, Mexico. The cook was gone and the women were hungry so Ignacio has to improvise.

He grabbed a plate of leftover tostadas, covered it with cheese, and topped it all off with jalapeños. The women loved it so much they called the dish “Nacho’s special.” Ignacio took the idea and ran with it at the restaurant.

The Ice Cream Cone Was A Necessity

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The classic waffle cone that we all know and love was all thanks to supply and demand. Ernest A. Hamwi was selling a crisp, waffle-like pastry at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair. His booth was right beside an ice cream vendor who was running out of cups and needed something to hold the ice cream.

Hamwi quickly rolled up one of his wafer-thin waffles and gave it to the vendor.

An 11-Year-Old Invented The Popsicle

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Frank Epperson was only 11 years old back in 1905 when he invented the perfect summer snack. He had left out his soda-making equipment on his front porch overnight and when he woke, the mixture had frozen.

Like a true entrepreneur he sold these to his friends and family but didn’t apply for a patent until 1924. Frank originally named the snack the “Epsicle” but by the time he was a dad, his kids started calling them Pop’s Sicles.

Worcestershire Is Knock-Off Indian Sauce

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Lord Marcus Sandy was a colonial governor in Bengal. He returned home to England in 1838 and began to crave the Indian spices and flavors. He couldn’t get the same sauces in England so he commissioned two drugstore owners, John Lea and William Perrins (sounds familiar?), to recreate the flavor purely off his description.

The first product they made smelled so terrible that they tossed it in the drugstore’s basement for two years. When they reopened the bottle, the aging period had improved the flavors and gave us Worcestershire sauce.

Can You Guess What The 4th Earl Of Sandwich Invented?

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People have been putting food in between two slices of bread for centuries, but it was John Montagu (no relation to Shakespeare’s Romeo Montague), the Fourth Earl of Sandwich, who popularized it. Beforehand, sandwiches were a food for the lower classes. Montagu decided to order his cooks to place the meat between two slices of bread for easier consumption.

Why would an Earl be worried about easy consumption? He wanted to be able to eat and gamble at the same time.

Beer Is A 10,000-Year-Old Mistake

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Beer is one of the oldest foods in existence. Archaeologists have found evidence of beer fermentation in the first Mesopotamian civilization. After some more research, they realized that the Mesopotamians were storing grains for bread but the storage spaces would get damp.

The damp space cause the grain to ferment and rather than throw it away, they mixed it with water, hops, and yeast to create the drink we all know and love today.

Brandy Was All Thanks To The Barrels

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Back in the 17th century, crafty Dutch wine-makers wouldn’t transport wine as is. They would boil down the wine to reduce its volume so they could pay less for transportation, then when it arrived at the destination the sellers would cut the alcohol with water.

One time their reduced wine was transported in wooden aged barrels. When they opened up the wine on the other end, they realize they had something very different and sold it as an entirely new product.

Champagne Is Elite For A Reason

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In the 1490s, temperature drops in the Champagne region of France was thought to have ruined the wine. It wasn’t warm long enough for the alcohol to fully ferment, so it would do half the work in the fall, then go through a second fermentation in the spring.

That second round of fermentation cause the bubbles to pile up and push the corks out of the bottles. At first, this was thought to be disastrous but once the growers learned how to harness the bubbles, it became a hit.

A Doctor Created Corn Flakes

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William and his brother John Kellogg owned a sanitarium in Michigan in the early 1900s. Will was trying to figure out a way to cook a healthy granola-like snack for the patients, but continued to fail.

Out of frustration, he left a pot of boiled, flaked corn out overnight. When Will came back the next day, he realized that the flaked corn had grown just enough bacteria to become a stale corn flake.

Cheese Puffs Were Made For Animals

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The Flakall Company of Beloit Wisconsin was in the business of creating machines to grind up grain to feed to animals. As a way of improvising, the workers would pour moistened corn kernels into the machine instead of dry ones so the machine wouldn’t clog up.

The result was that the grain came out the other end in puffy ribbons that hardened once it hit the air. The company owner Edward Flakell took some of the ribbons home, added oil and seasoning, and made the first cheese puff.

A Classic American Salad Was Complete Guesswork

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The Waldorf salad is one uniquely American dish. The salad was first created for a charity ball in 1896 in honor of the St. Mary’s Hospital. The chef was busy preparing other dishes so the hotel manager Oscar Tschirky decided to help out.

Oscar had often created dishes for the hotel and he figured a unique salad would be nice for the gala. The original salad only contained apples, celery, and mayonnaise then the nuts were added by 1928.

Cesar Salad Was Created For Americans

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No, Caesar Salad doesn’t date all the way back to Ancient Rome. It’s much more modern than that. An Italian-American restaurant owner named Caesar Cardini opened an eatery in Tijuana, Mexico. By 1924, Tijuana became a popular tourist spot for Americans during prohibition.

After a 4th of July rush at the restaurant, Caesar had to create a dish with what was on hand in the kitchen. He mixed up the salad ingredients and named it after himself to make it sound like a regular dish.

Raisins Used To Be Decoration

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Raisins aren’t something that humans need to invent because they occur naturally in nature. Way back in 2000 B.C.E., people often found dried up grapes on the vines. Rather than eat them, they were used as decoration around the house.

The shriveled grapes also became popular trading items, prizes at sporting events, and even used in medicine before they became a common healthy snack.

Thank Dairy Queen For The Slurpee

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We all know Dairy Queen for their soft serve ice cream and gravity-defying Blizzards, but they can also be credited with inventing the Slurpee. One store owner, Omar Knedilk, had a broken soda machine in his store. It was the 1950s and soda was all the rage, so he had to improvise.

He put a few bottles of soda in the freezer but they didn’t freeze solid and became a tasty slush. People loved the slush drink so Knedilk eventually built a machine just for mixing frozen water, flavor, and carbon dioxide.

The Traveling Circus Gave Us Pink Lemonade

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Adding lemons and sugar to water has been pretty common worldwide since the 17th century, but pink lemonade has a different history. The earliest mention of the pink version comes from traveling American circuses.

Henry E. Allot is said to have invented the drink after accidentally dropping cinnamon candies into his drink mix. Despite the liquid turning pink, he sold it at traveling circuses and people drank it right up.

Dippin’ Dots Are A Recent Accidental Invention

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The unique ice cream snack was invented by Curt Jones in 1988. At the time, he had been working at the Southern Illinois University Carbondale. Jones was working in a lab with liquid nitrogen when he realized he could use flash freezing at home.

He went back to his parents’ garage, applied the liquid nitrogen to a bowl of ice cream, and got the iconic dots that we know today.

Hawaiian Pizza Was All About Experimentation

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It would make sense for Hawaiian pizza to be invented somewhere tropical right? Wrong. The pizza featuring pineapple, ham, and Canadian bacon was invented in a small town in Canada. A restauranteur Sam Panolouos in Chatham, Ontario opened up a pizza and Chinese food joint in 1962.

He was looking for ways to combine flavors so he took pineapple from the Chinese dishes and put it on a pizza pie. We bet he had no idea the pizza would become a international debate.

A School Crush Discovered Roquefort

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Roquefort is blue cheese from a southern region of France. The cheese was discovered by a young french boy. He was eating his lunch in the forest when he saw a pretty girl, ran after her, and completely forgot about his food.

The little boy returned to the spot a few months later and found the cheese in his lunch was left untouched because it had grown moldy. Being a young boy, he tried the cheese anyways and realized it was actually pretty delicious!

Thank A Clumsy Son For Chinese BBQ Pork

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Many people across all regions of China had used BBQ roasting to cook their meat for centuries, but one clumsy son popularized the cooking technique. The son of a pig farmer accidentally burned down the pig sty which held the butchered meat.

Instead of throwing out their entire store of meat, the father decided to chop it up and sell the food as pre-cooked barbecued pork. The food was a hit and popularized Char Siu.

This Sugar Replacement Was Questionable At Best

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You can thank a much-too-curious chemist for the no calorie sugary foods we have today. Aspartame came about thanks to James M. Schlatter, a chemist working for G.D. Searle & Company. He was using the chemical compound for anti-ulcer drugs.

Schlatter absentmindedly licked his fingers to lift the corner of a paper, and realized they tasted incredibly sweet. He took the chemical and reworked it to be an artificial sweetener.

Three Separate Inventors Gave Us Peanut Butter

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Although the earliest known form of peanut butter dates all the way back to the Ancient Incas and Aztecs who would bring up roasted peanuts, the modern version comes about in the 1800s.

Marcellus Gilmore Edson patented a peanut paste in 1884. John Kellogg (we’ve heard of him already) patented a similar process in 1894 but marketed it as a protein substitute. Finally, Ambrose Straud parented a peanut butter making machine in 1903. We thank the heroes that came before us for giving us peanut butter.

A Dentist Invented Cotton Candy

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Although spun sugar has been around since the 1500s, the process was time consuming and hard work so it wasn’t very popular. Two men, William Morrison and John C. Warton, invented the first cotton candy machine in 1897. They debuted the machine at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair and it was a hit, selling more than 68,000 boxes.

The weird part is that Morrison was a dentist. Maybe it was all a plan to give kids cavities to get more business.

Dr. Percy Spencer Invented Two Things At Once

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Spencer is most famously credited with inventing the microwave oven, but while he was doing that, he also invented microwave popcorn. In 1946, he was working for the Raytheon Corporation when a chocolate bar in his pocket melted next to the magnetron. He grabbed some popcorn kernels and put it next to the magnetron and they began to heat and pop.

To this day, Dr. Spencer still holds the patent to microwave popcorn even though the common bagged form wasn’t introduced until 1973.

TV Dinners Are All Thanks To A Huge Thanksgiving Meal

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The frozen television dinner that every single male in his 40s loves is all thanks to Swanson. The company had an overage of turkey leftover from Thanksgiving sales so they decided to repurpose the turkey. The company cooked and cut up the turkey, added cornbread dressing, frozen peas, and sweet potatoes.

They decided to package it in a tray that reminded them of airline meals. The first TV dinner had to be cooked in the oven for 25 minutes, but now you can pop one on the microwave for a few minutes.

Instant Noodles Are Thanks To Other Food Inventions

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College students wouldn’t have their favorite instant noodles without some other important food inventions. The 1950s were all about quick meals thanks to the invention of the microwave and the TV dinner. Five years after seeing the success of Swanson, Momofuku Ando decided to create an instant version of his company’s focus, the noodle.

Ando realized that with a microwave and some hot water, you could have noodles in just a few minutes. 13 years later, he introduced the Cup Noodles.

The Man Who Invented The Pringles Can Is Buried In One

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Fredric Baur was working for Procter & Gamble in 1966 when they kept receiving complaints about chips being crushed in the bag. Bare dreamed up a tube that the chips could fit into perfectly and not get crushed.

We all appreciate Baur for his contribution to chip culture but he was incredibly proud of his own work. In fact, when Beau died from Alzheimer’s, his kids buried his ashes in an empty Pringle can.