Eating. potato chips.
What was that advertising hook that Lays used way back when? Bet you can't eat just one. More like you can't eat just one bag. I was at Costco the other day; when we were a family of three it was ridiculous to come home with a giant carton of grapes and a three-pound chunk of cheddar cheese. Now I am alone it is even more ludicrous to come home with a year's supply of paper towels and enough juice for two weeks (especially when I drink my juice fizzed up with sparkling water). And a giant bag of potato chips. Lays' Ruffles. They have Ridges; how could I resist them? These are the chips of school lunches in the cafeteria, in their little single-serving bags, amongst the corn chips and pretzels laid out enticingly next to the cash register. At home, preparing to carve my pumpkins at the worn kitchen table that has been there for twenty years, I pour out a bowl and childhood comes flooding back to me.
In a house that was mostly free of junk food (aside from ice cream), there was nearly always a bag of potato chips lying around. My dad would sit munching a bowl of them, drinking a glass of wine and watching the game on tv while we cooked dinner. At parties there would always be a cut-glass bowl full of chips, next to dishes of candies and nuts and platters of pâté and cheese; after the party was over the leftovers would be poured into ziploc bags, to disappear over the following days. I have always been criticized for my sweet tooth, but that has made a convenient smokescreen for my secret lust for salty things like chips and olives and nuts.
There are sour-cream-and-onion chips, leaving a malodorous powder all over your fingers (but not as bad as the cheese puffs that leave radioactive orange residue all over the place). Barbecue-flavored ones, smoky and dark red. Salt-and-vinegar chips, which shrivel your tongue and dessicate the roof of your mouth. There are upmarket chips, which you can tell are fancier because the bag comes in solid, dark colors with lettering that seems carved from bark, or shows scenes from Pacific Northwest life, or something. And the chips are more wrinkled and misshapen, darker in spots to show that they have been hand-stirred in open kettles and so forth. It's like how heirloom tomatoes are uglier than hothouse ones, but taste so much better (not to mention cost five times more).
After all those kettle-cooked potatoes made with olive oil and sprinkled lightly with sea salt, deformed and broken in their bag, it was time to come back to the relative uniformity of Ruffles. Crunchy and salty and completely addictive, I can't stop with just one. One bowl turns into two, in between scooping out pumpkin seeds and washing orange pumpkin gunk off my hands. Maybe three; after four hours of carving pumpkins, I've lost count. I eye the bag thoughtfully; with restraint and self-control, these should last two weeks, maybe three. Maybe.