Dearest Eliana and Gehrig,
Good morning, my sweethearts. I woke up thinking about you this morning and hoping you are having a fun time with your Grandma Vicki back and getting to meet your Aunt Ruthie. Ruthie is the second oldest of the four children from your Great Grandfather Dan and Great Grandmother Ruby and, of course, she is Grandma Vicki’s sister. Her actual name is Ruth Evelyn but, early on, family and friends called her “Ruth E.” or Ruthie. Kind of sweet, isn’t it? One of those things from your childhood which just carries on the rest of your life and will always stay with you. You will have lots of those, I am sure.
When I was not too much older than you, our kindergarten class from Henley Elementary in
went on a field trip up to ,
the adjacent town, and toured the local potato chip factory. It was the most amazing trip. The factory was nearly new and had all of this
huge, stainless steel equipment. There
were large tubs where potatoes were washed and scrubbed and mammoth drums which
tumbled the potatoes against a rough interior which removed the skins. The potatoes proceeded down a conveyor belt
and dumped into multi-head slicers which fed by gravity into giant colanders
beneath to catch the paper thin slices. There was a final washing and drying
stage before the potato slices were fed into huge vats of boiling oil for
cooking. It didn’t take long. Norwalk
Then people with full-length white smocks and rubber gloves used large, long-handled strainers to lift the cooked chips out of the cooking oil and place them on a long conveyor where they were sorted, by hand, before they went under a bar which dusted a fine salt onto the still warm chips. The smell of freshly cooked potato chips and their pungent oil filled the air and made our mouth's water. The chips then went into a bagging machine and down another conveyor to a packing station.
The chips that were sorted out were only those which had remained in the cooking oil too long and were a medium to dark brown. “Overcooks”, they called them. They were thrown on narrow conveyor belts running near the edge of the large conveyor that carried the “perfect”, crisp, light yellow chips, and sent down a chute into a large, open holding bin waiting to be discarded. When we passed that bin with those thousands of “burnt” chips, we were allowed to eat as many of them as we wanted. I remember to this day the taste of those warm, crisp chips with their dark, robust flavor and extra crunchiness and being able to have an unlimited helping. It was like being in potato chip heaven.
Years later some snack food marketing guru came up with the brilliant idea of bagging those “unwanted” chips and selling them at a premium. Of course, had they asked anyone of those six-year olds on the field trip that day, we could have told them they were missing a new product opportunity and “Kettle Style” would have been launched forty years earlier. This story leads me to my Fourth Pearl.
: Eat a
Potato Chip Pearl
Make sure that at some point in your life you stand at the edge of an ocean and put a large seashell to your ear and hear the waves crashing inside. Climb a tree and look down on the world from a different perspective. Walk in a
meadow in the spring surrounded by the bluebonnets and Indian paint brush and
smell the sweetness of wildflowers that cover the countryside like a
multi-colored blanket. Float in your
life jacket on a hot summer’s day in a clear lake and debate with your family
the politics of the day, religion or the meaning of life. Fall on your face in a newly mowed lawn and
smell the fresh cut grass. Doze off
under a spreading live oak tree and dream of all the mountains you will climb
one day. Make an angel in the snow…no,
make ten angels, until even through your snow suit, it’s so cold you can’t feel
your butt. Look up on a cloudless night
and marvel at the planets and the stars and let your mind be stretched by the
vastness and the awesome power of the Universe and behold God’s perfect
creation. And most important, hold the
hand of your best friend and look into their eyes and, silently, know you will
forever be in love. And, occasionally,
eat a potato chip. The dark ones are the
God bless you both, my darlings.