My friend Neal recently told me that he was glad to see some activity on my blog again. I think the problem is that I am always so busy with one thing or another that writing blog entries becomes a very low priority. However, sometimes something comes along that I simply have to get off my chest. Today, it is this modest proposal: “kettle”-style potato chips should be wiped off the face of the Earth.
A few weeks ago, the New York Times Sunday magazine ran an excerpt from a new book titled Salt Sugar Fat by Michael Moss. I found the article so sinister and terrifying that I demanded that we make a major lifestyle change: bags of potato chips would no longer be a staple item in our home. Moss reveals how Frito-Lay used a psychologist named Ernest Dichter to get around people’s objections to eating chips; the end result was that “the largest weight-inducing food was the potato chip. The coating of salt, the fat content that rewards the brain with instant feelings of pleasure, the sugar that exists not as an additive but in the starch of the potato itself–all of this combines to make it the perfect addictive food.” I insisted Joe read the article. “Potato chips are an addictive food!” I cried. “You can eat half a pound of chips in a sitting without blinking an eye. We have to stop buying them!”
Surprisingly, he agreed to this. (He then proceeded to drop five pounds. That is why women who are trying to lose or maintain weight hate men. The female fat cell is far more tenacious.) While I banned large bags of chips, however, I figured single-serving bags were all right. I mean, you can’t overeat if your bag only contains one ounce of chips!
We are regular patrons of Saturday’s Off the Grid food truck market at Alameda’s South Shore shopping center (slogan: “Sure, half of our storefronts are empty, but we’ve got a Trader Joe’s!”). This past Saturday, both Joe and I purchased sandwiches, from separate trucks. Both of our sandwiches came with chips. Kettle chips. There was no alternative available.
Back when big bags of chips were welcome in our home, I always bought Lay’s Lightly Salted. To me, they were everything you want from a chip: light, crisp, delicious, just salty enough. Why would anyone prefer a kettle chip–thick, greasy, hard, stale-tasting–to the wonder that is a classic thin chip? Kettle chips were certainly nowhere to be found during my childhood, and yet, these nouveau chips seem to be the rage these days, especially in your more “upscale” environs. I don’t understand it. “They are like eating a bag full of roof shingles,” says one astute commenter on thekitchn.com. “They are an abomination.” YES. Yes they are.
Personally, I believe that potato chips should come in one flavor: potato. Joe enjoys barbecue chips, but I refuse to go near him after he has eaten them because I find that artificial smoke flavor to be so distasteful. Yes, regular thin and crispy potato chips come in flavors other than plain–besides BBQ, there’s dill pickle, BLT, and various other horrors–but kettle chips always seem to be pushing the envelope of weird flavors. Mango habanero? Maple bacon? Roasted red pepper with goat cheese? There is no reason for these flavors to exist!
But here’s the worst part: we get sandwiches accompanied by roof-shingle-style chips, and we eat them anyway. Because they are chips, and even bad chips are an addictive food.
From now on, if somebody tries to give me a bag of these hard, nasty snacks, they’re going into the compost heap. Kettle chips: just say no.