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THINKING OUT LOUD - Surprising change for man who keeps potato chip memorabilia

Norwalk Reflector Staff • Oct 29, 2015 at 11:59 AM

Potato chips have always been important to me.

I can remember sitting on the front porch swing with my grandmother when I was a child with a big bag of chips between us.

Potato chips were apparently important to my grandmother, too.

As I am sure is true for you, as well, potato chips have been a focal point of every wedding reception, graduation party, Super Bowl party or other informal gathering for as long as I can remember.

I would estimate that I have eaten potato chips with my lunch three or four times a week for most of my adult life.

Looking for a temporarily lost document at home the other night you know how you do, going through even the drawers that you are certain do not have the thing you are looking for I came upon a perfectly flat, neatly pressed Becker's Potato Chips bag.

In the recesses of my basement, I have a nicely-preserved Becker's Potato Chips box. Remember them: big, red boxes which held a two gallon baggie of chips?

These things are symbolic of how much I like potato chips. I have potato chip memorabilia, for crying out loud.

When Dave and Trudy Robertson moved away from Norwalk a few years ago, Trudy stopped by and gave me an old Becker's Potato Chips can (again, the two gallon size).

Something weird about that, huh; people KNOW that I have potato chip memorabilia.

I think what did it was when I put a bag of Becker's on the cover of a book I published a couple of decades ago. That put me out there as a potato chip nut.

Becker's, for those of you so young that Becker's is an obscure reference, was our local potato chip company. Their plant, kitchen, deep frying facility, whatever, was located on Rule Street, easily within sight and, when the wind was right, smell of the Reflector offices.

They made a thick, rippled chip not unlike the ones you get these days from Ballreich's, another small-Ohio-town-chip-company. They were cooked in partially hydrogenated vegetable oil and salted just right. Partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, of course, is now known as trans fat, the most evil of cooking media. But, man, it made a good potato chip. And I grew up on them.

Of course, I also grew up on my parents' secondary Camel cigarette smoke, but that doesn't mean it was good for me.

And that brings me to the awkward admission I am about to make.

For about a year I have been on baked potato chips.

There I said it.

I guess what makes the admission difficult is that I feel I am betraying the potato chip, one of my first true loves.

Even harder to understand is that it is an admittedly poor trade. Concocted from some sort of potato slurry (i.e. not even a true chip), the so-called baked potato chip has fewer calories, no trans fat, less salt and about half the flavor of a good old-fashioned oily, salty potato chip.

Maybe I'll get over it. But for now I'm thinking it is a somewhat healthier choice. And with the cheddar cheese flavored ones, I can sometimes even deceive myself that they are tasty with lunch.

Wow, me easing away from real potato chips in favor of a healthier option. I never thought I would see the day.

But then I never thought I would see school kids standing in line to buy bottled water at a football game.

It's obviously a new world.

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