by Todd Sharp
From the tubular, righteous, humble beginning in Peru, the potato has been cooked up as a staple in nearly every cuisine around the world.
In its best form the potato is always paired with some fat and additional flavor. Butter, salt and pepper, sour cream, bacon bits, olive oil — you know the choices.
The potato might be the most universal of all foods, a perfect foundation with which to build up an entire recipe book of cultural and personal choices.
Could the mere, solitary, bland potato have survived the taste test of time without the luxurious support of the essential oils and spice?
I think not.
Potato salad, baked, lionized, fried, broasted, mashed and smashed. Whipped, boiled, poached.
Sweet and never raw. Gratin, scalloped, tots, frittata all have a mixture of fat and spices conveyed on the underlying fluffy texture and essence of the tater.
Invented in England in 1817, made popular by Chef George Crum in Saratoga Springs and mass produced in 1910 in Ohio, the potato chip has risen to worldwide acceptance, with each country having their own twist of taste to top their fried taters.
Around here, I remember seeing a “beer and brat” flavored chip last year. Not sure that it caught on. I hope not. Beer and brats stand on their own.
The crispy, brown-edged, greasy classic potato chip is laced with life sustaining potassium, vitamins B6 and E. Vitamin C and Zinc pump up your immune system. Oil and salt are essential elements of the earth. The Frito Lay package says it’s full of fresh potato taste, but mostly the taste is salt and the texture is an oily crisp crunch.
Over the years the ruffled, wavy chip and nearly unlimited number of flavors like ranch, BBQ, dill pickle, sriracha, and cheese have thinned out the popularity of the classic plain chip.
Yet the rustle of the yellow Lay’s bag full of thinly sliced russets still brings back flavor memories of R-line hot dogs at Big Al’s and the Saturday Spam lunch of my youth.
As I munch down the bag of potato chips I bought for the photo, I can feel my arteries filling with 100 percent saturated vegetable oil the potatoes soaked up in the frying process.
I can also feel the weight of the world sharing the same life-sustaining nutrients of the potato, cooked up in their own cultural mash, adjusting the amount of fat and flavors, adding to the spiciness in life.
Editor’s note: When not injecting saturated vegetable oil into his veins , Todd Sharp is an advertising sales prune for the Green Laker, Express and The Ripon Commonwealth Press.