Tuesday, June 5, 2018

The Potato Chip | Lefsetz Letter

We had the Wise owl.
The commercial is probably somewhere on YouTube. I remember seeing it on Saturday morning, during cartoons, Wise was the potato chip of choice.

And it came in a bag with said owl and blue coloring. Do they still make Wise? I hope so, I’d like some, you see… Back then we were turned off by the brown spots, THE GREEN SPOTS, but we ultimately came to learn…

Those were the best parts.

Wise was replaced by Lay’s, with a humongous advertising campaign. The chips were not perfect, not like Pringles, but they were sans major brown and green spots and suddenly, Lay’s were what you bought, kinda like Budweiser, before the craft beer revolution.

And that’s what this is all about, the potato chip revolution, but before we get there, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Charles, as in Charles Chips. A deliveryman came to your door every Friday afternoon. First, just chips. Then pretzels. Eventually cookies. They’d come in a tin. A giant one, in case of the chips. And you’d sit there eating them to your heart’s content. I like to eat until satiation, don’t you? Forget the social x-rays, the anorexics, who are constantly starving, holding back from eating. Then there are those telling us not to overdo it… I LIVE TO OVERDO IT! If it’s worth doing, I want to do it to excess. You name it, eating, skiing, music… Hell, that’s one of the reasons I had to give up drinking. That and the law…

And I can’t say Charles Chips were as memorable as Wise. But then came the aforementioned craft chip revolution. The small batch, small bag, expensive, supposedly handmade items.

Why do they come in such small bags? This is where Costco is a godsend.

And the flavors!

But before that we have to get to the ridges. Good for dip, good for chips? I’m not so sure. I like chips with or without condiments. But I see ridges as a separate category, kinda like a subset of religion. Kinda like Reform Judaism chips as opposed to Orthodox. And the difference between those two branches of Judaism has to do with the degree you practice traditions. I’m a Reform Jew, but I’m an Orthodox chip eater.

But they’re bad for you, so I see them as a treat.

But everything that is bad for us we used to eat with impunity. Summer meant french fries, at the beach. Ice cream every day. No one eats all that stuff anymore, unless…

They live in the hinterlands and haven’t gotten the message and aren’t worried about judgment.

But then there’s health. This stuff catches up with you. The nephrologist said I had heart disease. Wha??? But then I realized that scan Dr. Karlsberg performed… Yes, I have some plaque, I’m better than 60% of the men my age, but the other 40%..? What did they do, is it genetics?? I don’t know. But I do know I’m gonna die, and the older I get, the more I want it to be later rather than sooner.

And I cannot eat just one. So, I hold back.

But when the dam breaks…

Usually at a party. Kate used to have one every holiday, Memorial Day, July 4th and Labor Day, and she always bought chips, and I always scarfed them down, you’ve got to live a little, right?

But I try to hold back.

But today…

We’re visiting Felice’s mom, who’s recovering from back surgery, and we’re out on the deck and Felice breaks out a bag of Kettle chips…and they’re the dreaded sea salt and vinegar variety…and…

Coatings, tastes, some of them are ridiculous, they don’t appear in the wild, but sea salt and vinegar…I can see a sailor on old Cape Cod, staring into the wind, all piss and vinegar, with some salt thrown in from the spraying water.

And this is when I get back to Pringles. Potato chips in a can. All perfect. That’s so last century. Modern architecture, everything was slimmed down, excess was excised, we didn’t need orange juice, we had TANG!

And then, there was a backlash, we wanted to go back to our roots, the country, artisan. And although this eventually got Chipotle in trouble, I’ve never heard of someone getting sick from a potato chip.

And I see the bag and…

It’s like being an alcoholic. You can’t resist. But it’s not alcohol, can I have just one?

I’m gonna do it, I’m gonna take the plunge.

So I insert may hand into the bag and forage for an intact chip, I love the remnants at the end of a bag, but in this case, if I’m only having one…

And the next debate is whether to daintily consume it, or put the whole chip in my mouth at once.

I decide on the latter behavior.

And when the flavor hits my taste buds…

I’m brought back to old Cape Cod. To Wise. To Charles Chips. To every potato chip I’ve ever eaten. I’m thinking how the little moments make life worth living. I’m staring out at the ocean and I’m saying…

This is as good as it gets.

Wise commercial

Charles Chips

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