All of your favorite dishes were probably invented one of two ways: 1) by extensive experimentation with different ingredients and sauces by experienced cooks or 2) happy accidents that led to unexpectedly delicious combinations.
Actually... there is a third category: food created thanks to incompetence, laziness, or just plain simple douchebaggery. Like...
#7. Artificial Sweeteners
If you've ever attended a high school chemistry class, you're probably familiar with the "lab safety rule sheet" apparently designed for idiots. Seriously, do we really need to be told to wash our hands properly and not eat chemicals? To answer that question, here's a basic lab safety page; you can check off a rule after one of the following (supposedly college-educated) scientists totally ignores it.
Ignores it for science, that is.
The most famous artificial sweetener, saccharin, was discovered by a grad student named Constantine Fahlberg. He was working with some chemicals in the lab, and neglected to wash his hands properly; when he ate dinner that night, he noticed the bread was unusually sweet and realized it had been contaminated.
Instead of washing vigorously and/or sticking his finger down his throat, he started licking his hands and clothes to double-check his hypothesis and then tested the chemicals in the lab-and when we say "tested" we mean he licked them, too.
"You see that? I licked the shit out of that. For science."
Meanwhile, Jim Schlatter took it up another notch when he discovered aspartame (chief ingredient of Equal and NutraSweet). Schlatter had a habit of licking his fingers while reading, an absolutely terrible habit considering he had to both handle chemicals and lab reports regularly. Thankfully, when the inevitable happened, all he experienced was an annoyingly sweet taste instead of a horrible death by poison.
"I probably shouldn't eat this. Oh, well. Science."
However, for gross negligence he couldn't top Michael Sveda, who was smoking in the lab and put down his cigarette on a pile of chemicals. He then picked it back up and put it in his mouth, because you gotta get that nicotine rush no matter what, and noticed-guess what!-a sweet taste. He had stumbled on cyclamate, currently found only in the Canadian version of Sweet N' Low because apparently Canada has to be different.
The crown prize of stupidity, however, has to go with sucralose (aka Splenda): A foreign grad student named Shashikant Phadnis somehow misread a request for "testing these chemicals" as "tasting these chemicals." Instead of doing the logical thing and asking the professor what the hell kind of country this was, he obediently stuffed the chemicals in his mouth. If this were a wacky college movie he would have started tripping out and trying to have sex with inanimate objects. Since it was (boring) real life, he just tasted, of course, sweetness.
Look, hospitals are pretty boring places. You're constantly surrounded by the elderly, sick, and dying, and if you try to do something fun like, say, spray your friends with catheter bags, people get all worked up about it. So when the Kellogg brothers (yes, they of cereal box fame) started running their own hospital, they made do with the only option available to them: experimenting on patients. Specifically, they were in charge of thinking of fun new health foods to stuff down the throats of the bedridden, and by "fun health foods" we mean "metric shit-tons of granola."
Either the Kelloggs thought the secret to eternal life lay in granola or they just liked watching people gag on the stuff; either way they cooked up batches of tempered wheat like it was going out of style. They were preparing one such wheat pile when they were called away for unknown reasons. Maybe they had to fill a massive granola prescription or meet a young tiger cub named Tony; the world may never know.
What we do know is that when they got back, they realized they had forgotten to clean up after themselves when they saw the huge pile of wheat had gone bad.
Now, normally they would have probably said some curse words and made a new batch of wheat but given that whole "hospitals are boring" thing, they decided to just push on with the stale wheat. When they forced it through the granola rollers, instead of plopping out as a nice, steaming pile of granola it broke off into tiny little flakes, which should have been a clue that they messed up. Instead, they just served up the stale wheat flakes to their hospital patients, because those whiners had it coming.
"It's a salisbury steak, sir. We dumped about half a medicine cabinet on it. Let us know what happens.
In addition to likely going to hell after they died, they were presumably astonished when the patients all asked for more instead of vomiting-but not astonished enough to forget to patent their discovery. Eventually they switched to corn when they realized that wheat flakes taste like pieces of cardboard, and an empire was born.
Unfortunately, Wheaties didn't get the "wheat is awful" memo.
#5. Crepes Suzette
Whenever you have a famous person hanging around, people tend to become nervous and/or excited. When the person in question is the current Prince of Wales and future Royal Monarch of England-back when that actually meant something other than a fancy crown and a penchant for effeminate dogs-it can put people on edge.
This puts people on edge for an entirely different reason.
So you can imagine how assistant waiter Henri Charpentier felt when he found out that Prince Edward was visiting Monte Carlo's Cafe de Paris, and that he would be serving him. What you probably can't imagine is how he felt after he burned the Prince's meal. And when we say "burned," we mean it went up like the Hindenburg, thanks to some spilled brandy and misplaced heating instruments.
When Henri finally put out the fire, he was left with a noticeably singed and brandied (it's a real word, look it up) dish, and two options: either remake the dish while the French equivalent of Gordon Ramsay yelled insults at him repeatedly...
"You are le biggest fucking failure in le entire fucking world!"
...or say "Fuck zis nonzense" and just serve the Prince anyway in the hopes that he wouldn't notice, followed by some desperate cleaning up in the kitchen. Unfortunately, Edward did notice; fortunately, he thought that it was great enough to name after his current mistress, Suzette.
Incidentally, the Prince was both married and known for having a shitload of, uh, "outside women," so Henri may have lucked out by finding the most chilled of all the royals to sample his hot cuisine.
At least, that's Henri's story. His son, however, has a slightly different spin on it: according to him, Henri actually burned the dish right in front of the prince, and served it to him anyway. It takes pretty massive amounts of not-giving-a-damn to ruin a meal right in front of someone and then tell him to eat it. Actually, we're starting to suspect that Henri just totally hated the whole waiter gig and was trying to pull a 19th century Steven Slater and quit as flamboyantly as possible; instead, he created a staple of French cuisine. Go figure.
#4. Potato Chips
Unless you're some sort of billionaire trust fund baby, odds are that at some point you've worked a demeaning job, which also means that at some point you've run across a horrible, flesh-eating monster of a customer. You probably dealt with them the same way everyone else does: by getting progressively more and more annoyed until one of you gives up, and then writing a highly fictionalized version of your encounter on NotAlwaysRight.com.
And, finally, hard drugs.
But that's only because you aren't nearly as awesome as a certain fry cook by the name of George Crum.
Fry Cooks: The epitome of awesome.
Crum was making potato slices for one of his customers, who kept complaining that they were too thick and soggy. Crum sliced them thinner and dried them out longer, but the guy kept sending them back because they didn't meet his exacting potato demands. Eventually Crum just got fed up with the whole thing and sliced up a potato ludicrously wafer-thin, threw the slices into a fryer, and doused everything with salt.
Incidentally, this "You don't like my cooking? Well, taste this" method of customer service was one of Crum's favorite ways to get rid of an annoying customer; when they looked at the culinary bitchslap on their plate they realized they just got served (literally) and presumably ran home in tears. So when he served up his disgusting potato plate, he had a pretty good idea what to expect: a look of incomprehension followed by violent retching.
But this time it backfired when they guy said something along the lines of, "Now that's what I'm talking about" and started scarfing it down while Crum watched, aghast. The satisfied customer started bringing in all his friends to try these newfangled "potato chips," and Crum was unable to say "But you were supposed to be humiliated!" over all the people offering him money.