Saturday, October 18, 2003

One potato, two potato, three potato—Jesus, I'll never get enough potatoes at this rate

Like it? 
A couple of months ago, I wrote about what a nice place Canada is. About three people with zero sense of humor offered to send me there, and the horse I rode in on. One guy told me that America is cooler because we have more toys: “We have 12 aircraft carriers, Canada has zero.”

I suppose he’s right about America having neater toys, if all you care about is big boats that go boom.

That said, I put it to you that America is way behind Canada in terms of a different kind of scientific advancement: potato chip flavor technology.

Wandering through the chips aisle at Stop & Shop, you wouldn’t think we were deprived of anything in America, would you? We’ve got, like, a thousand kinds of chips: plain nachos, cheese nachos, ranch nachos, lime-flavored nachos, sour cream and onion, salt and vinegar, barbecue, pretzels of every shape, creed and color, poofy things made of unidentifiable substances, chips made of pita bread, chips both domestic and imported, and Fritos shaped like ladles, wood shavings or corkscrews.

And now, Lay’s has come out with a “new” flavor, available in your local supermarket: dill pickle.

I brought some to work the other day. My co-workers’ jaws hung agape at the sight. It was as if Marco Polo returned from the Orient to Europe with a fax machine instead of noodles.

One of them hit the bag repeatedly with a stick until it popped open. Using simple hand gestures, pointing from the bag to my mouth, I explained that these were for eating.

“But what strange manner of chip could this be?” one asked.

“Forsooth, I have never tasted the like,” said another, crumbs sticking to her chin.

I told them that Canadians have had pickle-flavored chips for centuries.

Visit Canada sometime and step into one of their grocery stores — like the Eh & P or Canadian Tire. It’s like traveling to another dimension, one where all your favorite foods have been compressed and concentrated into potent flavor powder.

Do you love the taste of gravy fries, but don’t have the two hours or so it takes to assemble them? Canadian potato chips come in gravy fries flavor.

Or, how many times has this happened to you: you’d really like to cook up some bacon — except it’s three-thirty in the morning, you haven’t had any bacon in the house for years, and you’re too embarrassed and/or drunk to make your way to the grocery store just to buy bacon. It probably happens far too often. If you were in Canada, you could buy bacon-flavored potato chips. They smell and taste exactly like bacon.

Or, have you ever wanted to make barbecued chicken, but your chickens simply refuse to stand still long enough to be barbecued? Any Canadian grocery store worth its salt sells barbecued chicken-flavored chips.

Have you ever had a hankering for mussels sauteed with capers and garlic, served over angel hair pasta and topped by a light white wine and lemon sauce, with a bottle of crisp, dry Chardonnay, finished off with a mellow cigar and romantic after-dinner conversation? Canadian potato chip scientists are working on it.

The variety of chip flavors one finds in Canada boggles the imagination: chips that taste like buffalo wings, freshly ground black pepper, grilled cheese sandwiches, hot dogs with the works, sour cream with, for God’s sake, clams. There’s the “all-dressed” chips, flavored with all of the above. The only flavor they don’t have is Unsatisfying Chip Flavor.

My personal favorite flavor of Canadian chips is, by far, ketchup. Lay’s makes them in Canada, and no, I cannot eat just one. I have several connections in and around the Toronto area, and even some in the Midwest United States, who ship me supplies of ketchup chips. I plant secret coded messages in this column (SEND KETCHUP CHIPS NOW) whenever I need a shipment from my suppliers.

The deliciousness is hard to explain with language. The thin slivers are covered in a bold red seasoning that leaves your fingers — and clothes, if you’re a slob like me — stained for days afterward. They taste exactly like ketchup. It’s a technological marvel.

Some people also think they’re disgusting. As if ketchup has no business being on potatoes! What the hell do you usually put on french fries — Cool Whip? And no, it doesn’t work if you squirt ketchup on plain chips. That’s just silly.

Ever since I was young, I’ve wondered why Lay’s sold ketchup chips in Canada, but not in southern New England. Is there a chance that ketchup chips will come to Fall River?

To find out, I called the toll-free number on the back of a bag of Lay’s dill pickle chips.

After a few minutes of wrangling with Frito-Lay’s automated phone line, I received the answer to all my questions:

“We’re sorry if you’re having trouble finding one of our products. Local preferences often determine what chips and package sizes are available.”

In other words: tough noogies, America.

But the robotic voice said my course of action should be to contact a store manager, or a local Frito-Lay representative, to ask for ketchup chips.

“Look up ‘Frito-Lay’ in your phone book!” the voice chirped.

Don’t bother looking — there’s no Frito-Lay in the phone book. I even checked under “Lay, Frito,” but no dice.

I’ve done all I can do. There is a clear and present Potato-Chip-Flavor Technology Gap between our two nations, people. If we don’t move to close it now, we’ll be playing catch-up with the Canadians for years to come.

No comments:

Related Posts with Thumbnails