What Foods Were Invented by Accident?

A waffle substituting for an ice cream dish popularized the ice cream cone.
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Cooking is both a science and an art. Following a recipe usually yields the expected outcome but an accident doesn’t automatically mean a disaster. Some of the foods we eat and even rely upon today were actually unintentional culinary experiments.

1 Say Cheese

In the late 1930s, Edward Wilson was working at a grain company in Wisconsin. One day as he was running a grain flaking machine, he noticed puffed corn curls coming out of the machine. He learned that damp corn kernels were fed into the flaker to keep the machine operating smoothly. The corn went through the hot machine and then hit the air, turning into air puffed curls. Wilson added oil and cheese flavoring to the corn puffs and the first cheese curl was born. He was awarded a patent in 1939 for this accidental invention.

2 Things That Go Crunch

Will Kellogg made a cooking mistake that led to a breakfast staple widely enjoyed today. In 1893, Kellogg was working in a hospital in Michigan and forgot about some grain that was cooking on the stove. He tried to salvage his work by turning it into dough but to his surprise, his concoction turned into a flaky mess. He put the flakes into the oven and the result was Kellogg's Corn Flakes.

3 Freeze Out

Clarence Birdseye was a fur trader and fisherman in Canada in the early 1920s. He realized that as caught fish came out of the water, they froze right away. He soon learned that frozen fish maintained their taste and texture. Since food that was frozen gradually formed ice crystals and eventually lost taste, Birdseye surmised that a flash freezing technique would create a better outcome. He perfected his accidental discovery and created a company still in business today, Birds Eye.

4 Sweet Treats

Frank Epperson was 11 years old when he accidentally invented the Popsicle. In 1905, Epperson used a wooden stick to stir a soft drink. He absent-mindedly left it on his porch on a cold winter night in San Francisco. When he retrieved it the next day, the drink and the stick was frozen solid. He applied for a patent in 1924 and named his creation the Epsicle. He began producing the Epsicle in seven different flavors. His children inspired him to change the name to popsicle to help market the product.

In 1930, Ruth Wakefield ran out of baking chocolate while making cookies for the guests at her Toll House Inn in Massachusetts. She broke up a Nestlé’s chocolate bar and the result was Nestlé Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies. Ruth Wakefield received an unlimited supply of Nestlé chocolate chips in exchange for allowing the company to print her recipe on the back of the bag.

Dr. Kelly Meier earned her doctorate from Minnesota State Mankato in Educational Leadership. She is the author and co-author of 12 books and serves as a consultant in K-12 and higher education. Dr. Meier is is a regular contributor for The Equity Network and has worked in education for more than 30 years. She has numerous publications with Talico, Inc., DynaTEAM Consulting, Inc. and Kinect Education Group.