Humor by Chason Gordon. See below.
Some people wonder about the main difference between Canada and the U.S. You may point to the structure of government, the tax system, or the weather, but I can simplify it to one thing: ketchup chips.
The U.S. is the most snack laden country on the planet. Every shape possible has been sprinkled with flavor dust and shoved into polyethylene bags. The chip aisle is often the longest in any grocery store and many Americans have a hard time enjoying a sandwich or a hot dog unless there are chips lining the plate.
So why is it that the flavor which has most defined the United States has eluded their cherished and lucrative snack industry? Americans put ketchup on all sorts of things: burgers, potatoes, eggs (why?), whatever needs that extra sweet red kick. The ketchup bottle is more likely to be found on a kitchen table than silverware or dishes. Yet these two prized things – ketchup and chips – have never been united in this country (perhaps they can’t put egos aside and work together).
I live in the U.S. (as a dual citizen – suck it Canadian friends!) and search for them high and low. I write letters to Frito Lay and Doritos begging them to consider expanding their flavor kingdom into the wonderful waters of ketchup. I’ve tried making my own ketchup chips at home by drying ketchup and grating it onto plain chips, but all I wind up with is a big bowl of wrong.
Like many expatriate Canadians living near the border, I often drive up to Canada ostensibly to see friends or visit family when in reality I am seeking only the kind warm embrace of a bag of ketchup chips. Whenever the border guard asks me upon returning, “Did you purchase anything in Canada?,” I respond (as I have hundreds of times) with “ketchup chips,” pointing him to a trunk that looks like I won a ketchup chip prize on a game show.
You’re probably wondering what my brand is; you’re probably thinking: “Okay Chason, I’m an American, I have a car, I can drive to Canada. What bag should I purchase?” Sadly, you’ve already gone wrong there. For you see the brand to purchase is Old Dutch (sorry Canadian Frito Lay), but you do not purchase them in the standard polyethylene bags with the shiny gleam and bright colors. You buy only the boxed Old Dutch ketchup chips with two clear plastic bags inside, even if you have go from one store to another. It may sound silly to suggest that there is a superiority of taste in the boxed packaging, but this is simply the truth.
The boxes do not merely house a better product, they have better packaging and can be decoratively stacked in your apartment when you’re finished. They hearken to an old time in Canada, a time before the harsh efficiency of polyethylene bags, a time before snack products needed prizes or pictures of hockey players to draw you in, a time when a product was just successful because it was good, not because it had been branded cleverly. That is everything that comes to mind when you bite into a ketchup chip from an Old Dutch box, though the nirvana of flavor pushes these thoughts to a subconscious level where they wait for your dreams.
Of course, this is not the only new snack experience that awaits Americans over the border. Canada also has a product called Cheezies (“Made with real Canadian cheese!”) which puts Cheetos to shame, forever relegating them to a distant second place like a hockey championship between Canada and the U.S. (oh I went there). And sitting in the candy bar section, like a chewy Canadian hero, is the Eatmore bar, which is less a candy bar than a journey into the great toffee yonder.
Nothing defines a country more than its snacks, for they are the littlest of the little things that make up life, and are often how we spend our nights, sitting marooned on a sofa holding the bag as if it was an old dog that died years ago. So when I say there is a superior product up north, I do not do so with any arrogance or raged sense of Canadian nationalism; I merely mention it with the spirit of the original North American Free Trade Agreement. I want to bring our countries together and engender a better world where communication and trade and snacks flow freely.
In this dream an American will not have to stretch his arm over the border to grab from the proverbial bowl of ketchup chips, because sitting on his lap, in America, will be his own.
Other recent articles:
Crackers Should Stop Trying to Be Chips – Paste Magazine
An Inside Look at Trader Joe’s Notorious Canadian Knock-Off – Seattle Weekly
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Thanksgiving is About More than Turkey, I Think – Literally Humor
McGinn: Decent Docent – City Arts