We have literally visited hundreds of museums on this trip, but as we drove into Idaho, we happened upon a sign for a museum that was RIGHT up our alley – The Idaho Potato Museum and Gift Shop. Mashed, au gratined, baked, fried – I love them all. So I was psyched to finally see a museum to celebrate the most diverse vegetable on earth.
Outside the building, you’re greeted by a large baked potato – great photo opportunity and wonderful way to kick off the visit, especially a pre-lunch visit.
We headed into the building, paid our $3 admission and quickly “eyed” the tiny museum. It begins with the history of the Idaho potato, which is in actuality the Russet Burbank potato created by famed American botanist Luther Burbank in the early 1870s. It also explores the advancement of farming techniques and equipment used for classifying and grading the famous spuds.
There’s also a display featuring the Guinness World Book’s largest potato crisp made by the food engineers at Proctor & Gamble in Cincinnati. The crisp weighs only 5.4 ounces, but measured 25 x 14 inches and even after 20+ years, looks absolutely delicious. Once you pop, you can’t stop. Interesting fact about the potato crisp – the potato CHIP lobby forced the USDA to rule in 1975 that Pringles (which are only 42% potatoes) did not live up to the definition of “potato chip” and Pringles was eventually required to stop using the slogan “the Newfangled Potato Chip.”
Of course, we also learned some interesting facts about the potato:
- The average American eats 143 pounds of potatoes each year (only 48.1 lbs of which are fresh)
- Thomas Jefferson served the first “French Fries” at a White House dinner (and was said by John Adams to be “putting on airs for serving such a novelty item)
- The Potato Chip industry survived WWI because the potato was the only ready-to-eat dehydrated vegetable available at the time
- 82% of people world-wide associate potatoes with Idaho
- The potato belongs to the same group as tomatoes, tobacco, chili peppers and eggplants
We got some postcards in the small gift shop and a small potato ornament. The theme is followed all the way through as the clerk put our items into a potato sack instead of typical gift shop bag - genius! We had fun learning about the potato industry and we will think of it every time we enjoy the starchy vegetable.