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The Tater Tot Is American Ingenuity at Its Finest

F. Nephi Grigg grew up producing potatoes and corn on his family's farm in Idaho. In the 1940s, he understood the future of frozen food and opened a flash-freezing plant in Oregon with his brother. They named the company Ore-Ida, after the two states. The Grigg brothers made a fortune processing potatoes into frozen french fries. But cutting potatoes into fries presented a problem, in that the potato pieces that were too small to use were hard to separate from the fries.

When an equipment manufacturing company inexplicably showed up at their plant to demonstrate a prune sorter, Nephi and his plant superintendent Slim Burton chatted with them about a redesign. Could the barrel be redesigned so that it would eliminate the unwanted pieces of potatoes from the very wanted french fries? It could.

This being the northwest, and with the Grigg brothers’ company surrounded by farmland, Nephi decided that the scraps would go to feed the cattle and other livestock owned by the Grigg family. This was fine for a while, until Nephi realized that these cattle were getting enormous amounts of potato product. He was an entrepreneur, goddammit, and not one to waste anything, especially “product that has been purchased from the grower, stored for months, gone thru the peeling process, gone thru the specking lines and trimmed of all the defects, only to be eliminated into the cattle feed,” as Nephi wrote in a letter to an Ore-Ida representative in 1989.

You can see where this is going. It was those little scraps left over from making french fries that ended up in Tater Tots. Read the rest of the story of how Tater Tots were developed at Eater. -via Metafilter

(Image credit: Flickr user Lower Columbia College (LCC))

We dish up more neat food posts at the Neatolicious blog

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The one big piece of information missing from this story: Why make the scraps into small round "tots" and not just hash browns?
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