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Friday, August 10, 2007

Canada, Progressive in all Things Potato Chips

I served a mission for my church in the Maritime Provinces of Canada. I was naive about Canada when I got there as most Americans are. One of the very first things I noticed as I was sitting in the airport in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia waiting for customs to clear my baggage was a vending machine with products in unfamiliar packaging. I was hungry, and not knowing how long until I would get a proper dinner I decided to check them out. When I moved in for a closer look I was hypnotized by the scintillating colors and promises of gastronomical delights held within the bowels of the machine. Now, mesmerized as I was, I frantically searched my pockets for coins. "Curse my luck!" I thought as I realized that all I had was filthy useless American money I needed Canadian coins fast. I located someone who would trade me so I swapped an American dollar for a Loonie (Canadian dollar coin worth only about 60 cents at the time) just to feed the machine.

When I approached the machine the second time with hands shaking in anticipation I noticed something I didn't see before. The flavors I was so accustomed to in the States Plain, BBQ, and Sour Cream and Onion were surrounded by an array of flavors so vast that it boggled the human mind. I was overwhelmed. There was about a million flavors and I only had 1 Loonie. How was I supposed to decide? They had ketchup, dill pickle, onion and cheese, and many others in addition to the ones I was familiar with. Bewildered at the plethora of options I asked a local what he recommended and he told me he was a ketchup man. So on his advise my downward spiral into the world Canadian chips began with an overpriced bag of airport ketchup chips.

No one told me that this was a gateway chip. I was never warned about the dangers of experimentation with new and exciting snack foods. When I got to my first assigned area in Cornerbrook, Newfoundland I went grocery shopping to stock up on supplies for our apartment I bought all the regular stuff that young single guys eat, Mac and Cheese, peanut butter and jelly, raman noodles, Kool aid, etc. Then I walked past the chip isle and the trance I was first lulled into at the airport a couple of days earlier returned. The full sized bags warmly embraced me as I turned to them. There were even more flavors here than in the vending machine. Not having a lot of money I decided this time on Dill Pickle chips and eagerly added them to my cart salivating, as I thought of tearing open the bag back at the apartment. Once I started I couldn't stop. There were to many flavors to try, roast chicken, gravy, Pizza, grilled cheese and ketchup, buffalo wings , salt and vinegar, and smoky bacon just to name a few. Some of them were terrible but the ones that were good ....oh man they were like ambrosia.

Pretty soon my two year mission was up and I still hadn't tried all the flavors I wanted to. I packed my suitcases full of bags of dill pickle chips and several other flavors and hoped that the States had somehow figured out true chip making technology in my absence. Unfortunately they hadn't, and though I managed to get by for a few years by having friends hook me up and once by driving up to Alberta under the pretenses it was just for a wedding (I returned with a car full of bags of chips) soon my supply started drying up. It was tough, I swore off of chips entirely for awhile but my heart wasn't in it. I would go back any chance I got. Finally though after several years I quit and was doing quite well. I managed to get by on the usual American flavors and then it happened, a couple of years ago while in Terre Haute, Indiana walking through the Kroger with my unsuspecting wife, I saw them... a gleaming green bag of dill pickle chips it seemed as if a ray of sunshine fell onto the bag. My wife thought I was nuts to get so excited over a bag of chips, but I couldn't believe we finally did it. We mastered the chip technology it only took 10 years, the wait was worth it. They tasted like everything I remember.

Even though to this day we still haven't mastered all the flavor combinations and I don't eat nearly the number of chips I used to, we are learning from our friendly neighbors to the North and I can pick up a bag of dill pickle chips anywhere now.


Jeff said...

I remember you coming back as a raving looney over nasty potato chips. You forced me to try said dill pickle chips. That was one of the worst things I have ever tasted. To this day the very though of them makes my stomach turn. Call me a good ol' boy but there ain't nothing better than a bag of Ruffels with some Ranch Dip or some KC Masterpiece Lays. I the words of Gollum "You can keep your nasty chips" Canada.

It is appropriate that the country that can ruin a potato chip would call it's currency a Loonie.

J. Scott Horn said...

I guess your palate isn't sophisticated enough to appreciate them. Or the repeated blows to my head has messed up my taste buds. But one thing is for sure at least I didn't come home with a taste for Okra.