This Super Bowl Sunday, millions of Americans will watch the game with bowls of corn-based snacks at their side. Whether you prefer Doritos, Cheetos, or even Funyons, you owe the pleasure of that crunchy munchy to the humble corn curl that started it all: the Frito.
This week, our friends at Smithsonian’s Food & Think blog trace the origins of the Frito back to entrepreneur C.E. Doolin’s encounter with a Mexican frita, or “small fried thing,” made of cornmeal, water, and salt. It was 1932 in San Antonio, and the flavor so inspired Doolin that he found the man responsible for the chips, a Mexican immigrant named Gustavo Olquin, and bought his equipment, recipe, and business contacts for $100.
Over the years, Doolin expanded the business, mechanized the chip-making process, and invented new flavors and products, like the Cheeto. The Fritos brand went on in 1961 to merge with the Lay potato chip company, another Depression-era family business.