On a Sunday night in early 2005 I was going through a difficult time. My girlfriend had recently dumped me and I had a craving for potato chips. But not just any kind of potato chips, I craved Snyder of Berlin brand ketchup-flavored potato chips. Or Ketchips, as they were called. They were amazing. If you’ve never eaten ketchup chips they are like a mix of barbecue and salt & vinegar chips. If you have eaten them then your mouth is watering. I literally cannot think of ketchup chips without a drool response.
Unfortunately, these chips I craved were discontinued a year earlier. I knew other brands of ketchup chips existed, but I had never seen them locally. I called two girls I knew, asking if they wanted to ride around with me and find ketchup chips. They agreed and one reported seeing them at a grocery store on the other side of town. We drove there and came up empty. I said there was only one place I knew for sure would have ketchup chips: Canada.
Back then I lived about two hours from the Canadian border. The girls agreed to come with me and we drove to Canada on the spot. This was before you needed a passport to go between Canada and the U.S.
As we entered Canada, the border guard asked us our business in Canada. This was about 11pm on a Sunday night. I told him we came from the States to buy ketchup-flavored potato chips. He asked how long we planned to stay in Canada and I told him about twenty minutes. That pissed him off and he hassled us, badgering us about why we would drive to Canada to get ketchup chips. When I said we couldn’t get them in America he was incredulous and I had to convince him of their scarcity.
So we drove to the first grocery store in Canada and stopped. Cross the border and you will see every brand of potato chip comes in a ketchup flavor. I filled a cart with ketchup Pringles, Lays, and Doritos along with an assortment of regional Canadian selections.
Sadly, we live in a society with a dying sense of regionalism. Mass market potato chips like Lays have pushed out regional brands that many of us grew up with. I’ve lived my entire life in the Pennsylvania/Ohio Snack Belt, an area lucky to have a treasure chest of regional junk food providers. People from Pennsylvania eat three times the pretzels that the rest of Americans eat. Hard not to be proud of a fact like that.
As much as I wish I had seven brands of ketchup chips to choose from, I’m at least delighted that Herr’s, a Pennsylvania chip maker, now has ketchup chips available in PA and Ohio for people unwilling to drive to Canada. Although it would be awesome if I have any Canadian readers willing to send me some. Just a hint.