Potatoes are a staple food in many cuisines around the world. They can be prepared in a variety of ways – mashed, baked, fried, etc. One popular potato dish is Jojo’s. Jojo’s are fried potato wedges, usually coated in batter before frying. But why are they called Jojo’s? There are a few theories behind the origin of this name.
Theories on the Origin of the Name Jojo
Derived from a Brand Name
One idea is that Jojo became a generic name for fried potato wedges based on a commercial food brand. In the 1970s, a company called J.R. Simplot Foods sold frozen fried potatoes called “Jojo Potatoes.” It’s possible the brand name Jojo just caught on and people began calling any fried potato wedge a Jojo.
Inspired by a Circus Clown
Another theory points to a famous circus clown named Joseph “Jojo” Lewis. Jojo was a clown for the Cole Brothers Circus in the early 1900s. He was known for balancing and spinning balls on his nose. Some claim the potato wedges resemble the round red balls Jojo would balance, leading to the nickname Jojo potatoes.
Named After a Jazz Song
In the 1920s, an African American jazz singer named Leon Redbone recorded a song called “Jojo.” The song became a hit. According to some accounts, people starting referring to fried potato wedges as Jojo’s in reference to this popular jazz tune. The fried potatoes resembled the round, plump shape of musical notes.
When Did Jojo Potatoes Originate?
It’s unclear exactly when fried potato wedges started being referred to as Jojo’s. There are a few key time periods that point to the origin:
1920s Jazz Era
As mentioned, the jazz song “Jojo” dates back to the 1920s. This could be one of the earliest references to Jojo potatoes. However, there is no direct evidence that the song led to the nickname.
1970s Frozen Food Era
The J.R. Simplot Foods Jojo Potatoes brand came onto the frozen food scene in the 1970s. This is the first known commercial usage of the name Jojo for fried potato wedges. The brand name may havepopularized the term.
1980s School Lunch Menus
Many people recall first hearing the term Jojo in school cafeterias in the 1980s. Fried Jojo potatoes were common menu items in many school lunch programs starting in this decade. This suggests the name was widely used by the 1980s.
How Did the Name Jojo Spread?
However it originated, the name Jojo for fried potatoes wedges likely spread through popular culture and media. Here are some of the ways the name became commonly used:
Brand Name Recognition
The J.R. Simplot Foods Jojo Potatoes brand was distributed nationwide. As the product was sold in grocery stores across America in the 1970s and 80s, more people started using the brand name Jojo generically.
School Lunch Menus
By the 1980s, Jojo potatoes were on school lunch menus across the country. As children ate Jojos in school, they spread the name to their families and friends, cementing it in popular culture.
Recipe Books and Media
As Jojo became the popular term for fried potato wedges, recipes and media sources adopted the name. Recipe books, cooking shows, and food blogs referred to Jojos when featuring fried potato recipes, further standardizing the name.
Other Possible Origins
While the jazz song, circus clown, and brand name theories are the most cited origins, there are some other ideas on where the name Jojo came from:
Creole Cuisine Influence
Some claim the name has roots in Creole cuisine in Louisiana. “Jojo” is thought to derive from the French Creole word “je je” meaning “little me” or “little I.”
West African Name
In parts of West Africa, Jojo is a common nickname for someone named Joseph. As fried potatoes were an imported food, some believe West African immigrants may have referred to them as “Jojo potatoes” based on this nickname.
Native American Word
One unverified theory is that Jojo comes from a Native American word referring to fried or roasted potatoes. However, there is no evidence of such a word.
Why Do Jojo Potatoes Remain Popular?
Regardless of how they got their name, Jojo potato wedges have stood the test of time and remain popular today. Here are some reasons why people continue to love Jojos:
Crispy and Crunchy
When coated in batter and fried, Jojos become perfectly crispy and crunchy on the outside. The contrast of the soft potato inside and the crunchy exterior is irresistible.
Versatile and Customizable
Jojos can be flavored in so many ways by adding seasoning blends to the batter coating. Cajun Jojos, ranch Jojos, cinnamon sugar Jojos – the possibilities are endless.
For many adults, Jojos are nostalgic – a throwback to school lunches and childhood meals. The nostalgia factor keeps them popular.
Fun Food for Kids
The unique name Jojo and fun shape make them appealing to kids. Jojos are an easy way to get kids to eat potatoes.
Satisfying Comfort Food
Jojos are the ultimate comfort food. The warm, crispy wedges satisfy cravings for carbs and fat in the best way.
The Future of Jojo Potatoes
Jojos have remained a staple food for decades, but will their popularity continue? Here is a look at what may be in store for the future:
New Restaurant Trends
Some restaurants are taking Jojos up a notch, serving gourmet versions with creative flavorings and dipping sauces. Foodie trends could drive interest in Jojos.
New Cooking Methods
Air fryers and convection ovens allow for oil-free cooking methods. These appliances may make healthier baked Jojos more accessible.
Potato-alternative bases like cauliflower or butternut squash may lead to more nutritious and gluten-free Jojo options.
Nostalgic Comfort Appeal
As old favorites remain popular in a busy modern world, the nostalgia of Jojos will likely continue appealing to people looking for comfort food.
While their exact origins remain a mystery, Jojo fried potato wedges have become an iconic food in American culture. The theories linking the name to a brand, song, or clown illustrate how food culture arises from a mix of marketing, media, and public perception. Regardless of why they are called Jojos, these crispy, comforting potatoes remain a staple on menus and dinner tables across the U.S. Their popularity seems poised to continue for years to come as new generations discover the joy of Jojos!
|Possible Origin Theories for the Name Jojo||Time Period||Details|
|Jazz song “Jojo” by Leon Redbone||1920s||Popular jazz tune that may have inspired the name|
|Circus clown Jojo Lewis||Early 1900s||Famous clown that used spherical objects resembling potatoes|
|J.R. Simplot Foods brand||1970s||First known commercial usage of Jojo for potato product|
|Creole cuisine influence||1800s||“Jojo” meaning “little me” in French Creole|
|West African name origin||Unknown||Jojo as common nickname for Joseph in West Africa|
|Native American word||Unknown||Unsubstantiated theory of Jojo coming from indigenous word|
|Decade||Evidence of Jojo Potatoes|
|1920s||Jazz song “Jojo” released|
|1970s||J.R. Simplot Foods Jojo Potatoes brand sold in stores|
|1980s||Jojo potatoes appear on school lunch menus|
|1990s – Present||Name Jojo used in recipes, media, and restaurants|
|Crispy exterior||Fried batter coating is crunchy when freshly cooked|
|Fluffy interior||Potato wedge center stays pillowy and soft|
|Customizable flavors||Batter can be seasoned with herbs, spices, cheese, etc.|
|Nostalgic appeal||Reminds people of childhood and school cafeterias|
|Kid-friendly||Fun shape and name appeal to children|
|Satisfying comfort food||Warm, crispy, and filling|