Mixed Greens Blog

Mixed Greens Blog
Living Sustainably in the Pacific Northwest


Lay off those Potato Chips

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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.”

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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.

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Homemade Local Potato Chips

3 large potatoes, cleaned and not peeled.

Olive oil

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.

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Now, pour yourself a beer and toast to “keepin’ it local.”

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6 Responses »

  1. Every time I see those ads it makes my fists clench – how crazy the logic is! I’ve been eating potatoes thinly sliced like that all winter (as one of the many ways to mix up what was a staple of the stored food)…. and it was delicious! Supporting farmers right in my own neighborhood, and having the variety, delicious taste…. nothing like it. Plus, with the ability to season as the whim comes, it can suit any mood.

  2. Mangochild, Thanks for reminding me about seasonings. You can try any number of herbs and spices or even grated cheese.

  3. I’ve noticed a lot of that too. I have a toddler and am always shocked (and a bit amused) by all of the processed food touted as “healthy”, “smart choice”, “as good as the whole food”, etc by the baby food makers. Not that he hasn’t had a few Oreos in his 2 years, but I think they want us to forget that an organic candy bar is still a candy bar 🙂

  4. What beautiful potato chips! And nice work around for deep frying in hot oil.

  5. Thanks, Audrey. It helps that I’m deep-fat-frying-phobic but also baking is much less time-consuming.

  6. I found an exceptional way to make potato chips, they call it “Potato Chip on a Stick” in Korea, I have just bought the slicer machine, you can slice the potato in spiral on a wood skewer, is really amazing, you can see how it work at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KD1WBAqT6Ko. A totally different way to make your own potato chips at home, you can make banana chips as well, my kid loves it.
    Donna 😉