In My Pantry: Utz Potato Chips
What makes our favorite foods our favorites?
It’s a question any foodie inevitably ponders, and one which I’ve given some thought to recently. Taste obviously has something to do with it, as does texture and even setting. But did you know there is another element that helps define overall flavor for us?
In The Flavor Bible, authors Karen Page and Andrew Dorenburg discuss the “x factors” of flavor, and more specifically, the role of memory in defining flavor and taste. I couldn’t agree more with their assessment that there is almost a metaphysical connection people have when it comes to experiencing food, which can move us and affect our emotions as much as our taste buds.
For me, the pantry item that does this the most is plain old Utz potato chips. Regular Utz chips don’t have the same crunch as Cape Cod kettle chips, and they definitely lack the sweet, robust flavor of Route 11’s Sweet Potato chips. They don’t have any special seasonings, and their salt content per serving is remarkably sparse. They aren’t sweet, they aren’t salty, and they aren’t bitter. They are, however, my favorite chips in the world.
Three for a dollar at any local mid-Atlantic grocery store, the 1 oz. bag of red and white chips with the little Utz girl on the cover will always remind me of elementary school picnics and summer field trips to the Inner Harbor. They were never actually in my family’s pantry growing up, but they were always a staple of social events during my childhood, and always in my friends’ pantries. They have a clean taste that doesn’t mask the natural earthy taste of the potato, while an airy, super crispy texture makes stopping at just one impossible. Never burnt and fairly oily (in a good way), they strike a perfect balance, leaving a savory and lingering taste in your mouth for hours after eating. For as good as they are in taste and texture though, it is the memory of simpler days from my childhood which makes Utz potato chips the most flavorful chips I’ve ever tasted, and always keep me coming back for more.
So I’m asking you, GrubGraders! Which foods recall you to your childhood, and make you feel all warm and fuzzy on the inside?