I read an article in the NY Times last week about large companies using the local foods movement as a marketing angle to sell more processed food. If you go to the website for Lay’s potato chips you’ll see ” Lay’s proudly supports American potato farmers.” They have a “chip tracker” so you can find out where your bag of chips was processed and where the potatoes were grown. They assume you have a bag of their chips on hand so you can enter your zip code and a product code that’s on the front of the bag. I entered my zip code and the product code they used in their example and found that “my bag of chips” came from Texas but there’s a closer plant in Vancouver, WA. I also found that “Washington farmers grew over 112 million pounds of potatoes for Frito-Lay last year”. They go on to assure you that they are made with 3 simple ingredients — grade A potatoes, all natural oil and a dash of salt. This is followed by “after all, happiness is simple.” Okay, now I’m getting mad and feeling manipulated.
This isn’t what I have in mind when I say, “eat local.” Even Michael Pollen says, “The ingenuity of the food manufacturers and marketers never ceases to amaze me. They can turn any critique into a new way to sell food. You’ve got to hand it to them.”
All trends start with small groups of people who are committed to a cause. If the trend gains mainstream acceptance, it’s bound to change and transform, hopefully into ways that bring more awareness to the cause. This is where I get confused. I want more people to pay attention to where and how their food is being grown but it feels like “eat local” is taking on a life of its own that has little to do with the practice of sustainable farming. It’s following the path of organic food right onto the major grocery stores shelves. I guess this makes sense for the places where local, organic food isn’t readily available. As for me, I’d rather make my own potato chips than buy the huge “local” brand.
I started by going back to Olsen Farms at the University Farmers Market and buying three varieties, All Red, Viking Purple and Desiree. All make excellent chips and I’m certain other others would work too. Chips are something people ordinarily have an impulse to eat rather than a meal you plan in advance. I wouldn’t even suggest making them if it weren’t so fast and easy. If you do make them ahead of time, you can always stick them back in the oven for a couple of minutes to crisp them up.
Homemade Local Potato Chips
3 large potatoes, cleaned and not peeled.
Salt & freshly ground pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Slice potatoes as thinly as you can with a sharp knife or use the slicing blade in a food processor or mandoline. I used my food processor. Put slices into a bowl of cool water until you are ready to bake.
Lay potato slices out on paper towels and blot if needed to dry.
Brush each slice on both sides with olive oil. Salt and pepper to taste.
Place on baking sheet on top of a piece of parchment paper.
Bake for 12 -15 minutes. Using tongs, turn over and cook on the other side for 12 – 15 minutes longer. Keep an eye on them towards the end. They will brown rather quickly. Cooking time depends on thickness of your chips.
Now, pour yourself a beer and toast to “keepin’ it local.”