A staple of American casseroles and cafeterias, the humble tater tot was created back in 1953 by Nephi and Golden Grigg, co-owners of the Ore-Ida potato company. They were looking for something to do with all the potato scraps left over after cutting French fries.
“It’s a show of true American ingenuity, [using] scraps,” said Dan Whalen, a food blogger and author of “Tots!,” a tater tot cookbook. “It was trash. “They put the scraps together, put it in the deep-fryer, and realized that it would be delicious.”
Delicious, but not popular, initially. The problem? If you can believe it, tater tots were too affordable. “People not only knew it was scraps, but the price point was very low,” said Whalen. “And classic economics, they just raised the price, and people are like, ‘Wow, these must have value to them now!'”
But eventually Americans fell in love with the bite-size potato nuggets. According to industry statistics, Americans ate about 38 billion tater tots last year.
And it wasn’t just at bowling alley snack bars, either. Tater tots have appeared on the menus of some of the finest restaurants in the country.