The Tater Tot held its debutante ball, fittingly, at the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach. The swooping post-modern structure had itself just debuted in 1954, signaling the country's interest in new forms, new conveniences, new luxuries — all financed with infusions of postwar cash.
The coming-out event wasn't actually a dance in honor of a frozen food, but rather a breakfast at the National Potato Convention being held at the hotel. One attendee — F. Nephi "Neef"Grigg of Ore-Ida Foods in Idaho — had smuggled in a satchel of what would be his greatest invention and bribed the head chef to prepare them.
"They were gobbled up,"Grigg wrote, "faster than a dead cat could wag its tail."
Half a century later, the gobbling of Tater Tots continues unabated — to the tune of more than 3.6 billion annually. Grigg's solution for using up scrap generated from the processing of frozen french fries has become an iconic American food — snack, side dish, object of adoration.