Saturday, July 21, 2007

Sour Cream and Onion

I was twelve. If I was any younger I wouldn’t be smart enough, and if I was any older I wouldn’t be dumb enough. It was the perfect age to do something that in hindsight was pretty stupid, though at that age was considered nothing less than duty.
In the early 1980’s there were always two things more on the mind of a twelve year old than anything else, toys and food. Girls are still in the annoying category and school was a torrential sucker of all that was fun, but nothing was better than sneaking in that new Transformer toy into class, or hiding a pack of Black Bart ® licorice chewing gum in your desk to be used for a recess trade or to share with your friends in some game to see how black you could make your tongue. In grade six, the search for the meaning of life ended at toys and food, and all other things were non essential.
As far as I remember it, it was the perfect day. I was on my BMX bike making my way to the Consumer’s Distributing to spend some paper route money on one of my favorite things, a GI Joe action figure. After the purchase I would make my way over to the corner store and buy a bag of chips, not just any bag of chip, heck no. It had to be Old Dutch Sour Cream and Onion.
Sour cream and onion chips were, without a doubt, the best flavor of chips ever. When in school you’re asked that stupid question about what you would take on a desert island if you only had one thing? It had to be sour cream and onion chips, every single time. Fishing trips? Sour cream and onion. Sleepovers? Sour cream and onion. Birthday parties? Patio hangouts? Tree forts? Sour cream and onion. The two flavors if consumed on their own, not so good, but some Einstein put the two negatives together and out came a positive.
At that time there were two brands of chips, Hostess and Old Dutch. Both chip brands made the SC & O, but Old Dutch did something Hostess never did, they rippled the chip. Rippling the chip does two things, it helps the pursuit of world peace AND helps the chip hold more flavor, the latter being the most important of course, world peace be damned. The precious ripple held far more flavor than the standard flat chip. Simple science could prove that with friction zones, contact zones, static electric bonding and the Pythagorean theorem. Yea, A squared plus B squared equals more flavor. It was all that mattered. The more flavor, the better.
So I was on my way to the corner store, GI Joe in my hand. I remember never being able to wait to get home before opening my toy packages, and risking life and limb I would unpack my GI Joe while riding my bike, discarding the package material without stopping. I arrived at the store and parked my bike against the outside wall of the store and went inside. GI Joe and I fought our way to the chip isle in a show of sheer bravery, fighting off nothing but time really.
Scanning the rows for the SC&O in Old Dutch brand of course, my trained eyes found the familiar white bag I knew so well, the little cartoony sour cream dude and the onion guy in some kind of strange embrace. They were in this together. They were brothers in arms. I picked up the bag, but something was wrong. It felt heavy. I grabbed another bag for comparison, and it was certainly lighter. I couldn’t help but wonder what would cause a chip bag to be heavier? I knew I was on the verge of a major discovery. Could it have been a prize? A chopped off finger? A dead mouse? I decided that good or bad, I had to know what it was. Worst case scenario I’m out a quarter and curiosity gets another notch on the bedpost that is life experience. I paid for it and left the store hurriedly, almost forgetting about my new GI Joe comrade. We were in this together after all, him and I, brothers in arms.
I biked to a nearby park, set my bike up against a trash can and ignoring the bird crap, quickly sat down on the park bench. I reached into my jacket and pulled out the bag, still feeling a little heavier than normal. Grasping the sides I slowly pulled them apart until the top seal broke open and the familiar smell of good ol’ sour cream and onion wafted upwards. I looked into the foil bag and realized quickly what the source of the weight was. What I had here was a bag of chips with more flavor than chip, the chips were literally stuck in an immense amount flavor powder awesomeness! What I was looking at was the Holy Grail of the potato chip religion. A bonafide factory screw up! The bag was probably worth millions at a potato chip auction, but there was no way that it could be saved. We had a situation there that had to be dealt with swiftly, I had my orders and it was my duty. I had to eat that bag of sour cream and onion chips proudly, and in so doing mark it as a major accomplishment in my life along with the others such as taking my bike over a five foot ramp without crashing, or walking several kilometers under Calgary in the sewer system without dying. So I began to eat those chips and powder ad it was good, very good.
I was over half way when good started to turn to not bad, and then not bad to a turn to gross. I started to feel a little nauseous, and I could feel my stomach presenting me with the possibility of a full refund. I stopped eating, hoping the feeling would go away. It didn’t. I sat there on the park bench now swaying back and forth, attempting to slow what now seemed to be inevitable. I didn’t want to puke, I hated puking.
There is a window of time before one vomits, it’s that time where the cold sweat breaks out on the forehead, the dizziness starts up and the saliva starts to crank into overtime. It’s that time where you feel the worst. It’s puke imminent. I can’t remember how long I maintained puke imminence, but it couldn’t have been for long. I stood up and made my way over to the trash can which up until that time was used only as a holder for my bike, was about to be used as a container for my guts. The gates opened, I puked wildly, and with violent heaves the meaning of life and I parted ways.
When I was finished and the aftershocks had settled, I opened my eyes and through my puke induced tears peered down into the garbage can. There, in the technicolor of my funk, I saw my GI Joe. He was holding out his arms in hope to be saved, but it was too late. He was covered with chemical blast and I could not get myself to save him. I turned my head and biked away.
I learned two things that day. One, too much of a good thing is not good at all. Two, I could never be a US Marine, but being a Canadian made me feel somewhat better about the latter. I ruined something in my life that day, I could not get myself to eat sour cream and onion chips for a long time. Even to this day, 23 years later, it’s my last choice of flavor. Sometimes life presents us with these tests of indulgence, and we learn from it. It would take seven more years for my next test to show up, this one in the form of Southern Comfort, but that’s another story, if I can remember it.



socklady said...

I am not really sure what to say about this other then....I had no idea you were such a big GI Joe fan back little I really know about my brothers.....

Tan said...

I once wrote an article on Old Dutch for a magazine. I had to go to their head office (here in Calgary) and boy, are those CEOs passionate about their potato chips. I was just there to ask a few questions, record their answers and be on my way. But they had me testing chips out of little bowls all over their boardroom. You should hear them go on about the weight of the bags (they confessed that instead of raising the price, they just lower the weight/volume of chips) Sneaky bastards!

Anonymous said...

Ahhhh Schappy.....

Very nice story. I have a very similar tale (minus the semi-erotic fascination with GI Joe of course)about Kraft Dinner. I used to love the stuff. One day I overdid it a bit and ended up spewing KD all over the house. To this day the smell of KD will make me gag.

In my last office gig, our building was right accross the street from the Old Dutch factory. The smell of deep fried chips day in and day out was (almost) enough to make a guy quit chips altogether.


Alex said...

I remember a story of slices of process cheese and mayo.. :P


luda said...

My computer @ work crashed :( so I have been in deep withdrawal for a few days, until today :) wonder of wonders, oh joyous day, I have a shiny new, faster computer and what did I do...I caught up on my schaaper blogs, of course. Good to hear from you again! I have a story about Irish Cream, not nearly as eloquent, but probably just as violent an ending!

Mattie said...

All I have to say about a story for myself is Iced Tea, a Beer Bong and Hard Alcohol... I leave it to you to connect the dots.

Anonymous said...

I suppose its ok to stretch the truth a little when its your own blog, but the way I remember it, we were hanging with Yudi at the Old Dutch factory and discovered a garbage bin full of discarded chip bags that didn't pass QC inspections, the least of those bags being an over seasoned salt n' vinegar. minor details I suppose. You continue to write great fiction.

Alex said...

The Yudi slash old dutch factory incident was a totally different story, but I do remember it well!
Yudi.. lol..

The Big DC said...

Schappy - While process cheese and mayo does sound appealing - my fetish was with Cheese slices dipped in BBQ sauce. Got sick on that too. I also had a weird thing for croutons, triscuits and thousand island dressing. I called it my "Fibre Salad"

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