Stories Told

How the modern potato chip was ruined, and what you can do about it

I love a good potato chip. And good ones are hard to find.

That’s because most chips today are just salt and crunch. We want our salty snacks, but we don’t want them to be too bad for us. Most chipmakers have responded by frying in so-called “good oils” low in saturated fat and trans fat, such as corn, sunflower, and canola. It’s a shame, because what results is a dry chip with little potato flavor.

Yes, I said dry. A chip fried in saturated fats lacks no crunch, yet has a certain moisture to it. It is similar to a good pie crust, where the flaky layers melt in your mouth. Aw heck, most of you probably have no idea about that, either; who makes pie crusts anymore?

I have discovered that the fine people of Ohio are still serious about their chips. The state boasts ten companies that make them. The best known of them is probably Mikesell’s, of Dayton, which distributes its chips across much of the Midwest. Theirs were the best chips at the grocery store until they stopped frying them in pure peanut oil a few years ago.

Fortunately, Ohio has other chips up its sleeve. While I haven’t tried them all, I’m not sure I need to because I’ve tried and fallen hard for these two:

Ballreich

The first is Ballreich’s, made in Tiffin, which is about an hour southeast of Toledo. Their best-known chip is wavy, or “marcelled,” in Ballreich lingo. They’re a little thicker than your everyday chip, and they actually taste like potatoes. But because they’re fried in a combination of partially hydrogenated oils, they also melt a little in your mouth. They’re a little greasy, but not overbearingly so. They are a supremely satisfying chip.

Goldnkrisp

The other is Gold’n Krisp, of Massillon in northeast Ohio. Be still my beating heart, but they are fried in soybean oil and lardCan I just say that I have the deepest respect for that? When I bit into my first Gold’n Krisp chip, my knees buckled and I moaned slightly, so delicious were they. It was almost a spiritual experience. They manage to be less greasy than the Ballreich chips with no loss of great potato flavor. Unlike Ballreich, Gold’n Krisp makes only these flat chips.

You can buy fresh Ballreich chips online here. I’ve done it twice; they arrive well boxed and unbroken. Gold’n Krisp hasn’t joined the Internet age, but I gather that they take orders at (330) 832-8395. You’ll pay a good deal more for these chips than you will for that bag of Lay’s at the supermarket, especially because of shipping. And you generally have to order them several bags at a time, so perhaps it’s best to stock up for your next party or cookout. But my goodness, what chips.

In an age where we don’t want our snack foods to be too unhealthy, we’ve squeezed all the life out of them. I say eat fewer chips – but when you do eat them, eat really good ones. Ballreich’s and Gold’n Krisp should be at the top of your list.

I used to write about fried chicken here, too. Favorites here, here, here, here, and here.

Standard
Photography

Captured: Rife’s Market

Rife's

I visited my friend Alice in Columbus, Ohio, the weekend before last. We ended up taking in the galleries, thrift stores, and specialty shops along Grandview Ave. and 5th Ave. near the Upper Arlington neighborhood. Rife’s Market stands on the southeast corner of 5th and Grandview. It’s a real throwback – meat and produce in the front, a handful of shallow grocery aisles in the back. We went in mostly to have a look, but when confronted by a giant display of Ohio-made potato chips I couldn’t resist and bought a snack bag. I love a good potato chip. Most of what’s available at the grocery these days is all crunch and salt. You should be able to taste potato, too, and the fat used for frying should impart a slightly creamy mouth feel. I liked the little bag of Ballreich’s chips so much I went back later for a full-sized bag to take home. I also bought a bag of Gold’n Krisp chips, as the ingredient list on the back said they are fried in a blend of vegetable oil and lard! My arteries are cursing me, but holy cow are these chips delicious.

Twilight had fallen as I left Rife’s and headed for home. My Pentax ME hung around my neck, with the 50mm f/2 lens attached and some Kodak Tri-X 400 inside. That good Pentax glass and fast Kodak film let me make the most of the available light for this shot. I love how the grainy Tri-X makes this photo look like it could have been taken in 1962, not 2012.

Standard