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Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Many global problems; at least chips are great! (from '14)


I think we can all agree that the world in general really sucks right now. There’s divisiveness, racial hatred, injustice, rampant want and war galore.

It’s very sad.

So let’s take a moment to rejoice that there’s at least something positive happening every day to further mankind. Or at least fatten him up.

All hail the potato chip!

There’s never been a better time to be alive for those who enjoy potato chips. American eat 1.2 billion pounds of chips every year.

I think I ate about 15 percent of the total just this weekend.

Recent flavors I’ve enjoyed include sea salt & cracked pepper, Italian herbs & Asiago Cheese, red hot, ranch, jalapeño & horse radish, and Old Bay.

The diversity is incredible.

It’s a pity we can’t be as appreciative of the diversity of races and religious beliefs of people as we are about the chips we consume.

The funny thing is until about a year ago I’d never even been chip guy. I’d always been pretzel man, Bachman Pretzel Man, to be specific.

They were my old man’s favorite and growing up we always had a big bag up above the refrigerator. I loved them, too. I remember sitting munching on them with a big icy glass of Coke, Dad in his recliner with a Budweiser in his hand and a barrel sized-container of his salt-encrusted favorite in his lap.

Then Bachman shortly after the 2004 death of my Dad, Bachman’s seemed to disappear. It’s almost as if Bachman sales dropped so dramatically after his death the company was forced to slash production.

And wouldn’t that be ironic: over-consumption of an unhealthy snack contributes to the death of its No. 1 customer whose death contributes to an unhealthy decline in company fortunes.

Must be a salty circle of life analogy in there somewhere.

But I became depressed. Over the death of the old man, sure, but where were my Bachman’s?

I couldn’t find them anywhere so I started seeing other snacks. I tried all the other pretzels, but I could never find any that matched Bachman.

So after about 40 years I began to drift to chips.

It’s been an epiphany.

Cape Cod makes some great chips. Very crisp and flavorful. And I’m still a sucker for Pringles even though it annoys me when I want original Pringles I now need to visually sift through more than two dozen ridiculous chip flavors that have included pumpkin and peppermint white chocolate.

Yuck.

What do they think they’re making? Lifesavers?

Since 1967, they’ve never been able to improve on Pringle-flavored Pringles.

I guess my favorites right now would have to be Gibble’s Red Hot, which goes perfect with a little artery-clogging tub of French Onion dip. 

Like so many great snacks, Gibbles are made right here in Pennsylvania, with most of them being made near York, the self-billed “Factory Tour Capital of America,” and the place where so many chips, pretzels and Funions are produced.

Yes, if the great midwest is the nation’s Bread Basket, then Pennsylvania is its Waist Basket.

I’ve for years in vain pitched a story about SNAXPO, the annual international gala of product trends of the $6 billion-a-year snack food industry. At the conference, thousands of dedicated men and women get together (this year in Orlando March 28-31) to discuss ways to get an already over-fed America to demand more bagged crap.

It’s amazing. All many of us do all day long is snack, snack, snack. Yet, the SNAXPO keynote speakers will no doubt exhort their audience that they must do better.

It’s fascinating because I think we’ve already reached snack nirvana so these people must be zealots.

Certainly, they read the news and see what sad shape the world is in. Yet, they devote their entire professional existence to making things like potato chips so good we find them and nothing else irresistible.

Or maybe I’m looking at it backward. Maybe we should emulate the single-minded snack food industry.

Maybe we all need to do whatever we can to make the world a better place by doing what we do best in the hopes we can one day vanquish all the vexing troubles that today seem so monolithic.

I guess the lesson here is it’s up to all of us to just keep chippin’ away.


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