Hick­ory Sticks: the last snack you will ever buy

The Hamilton Spectator - - LIVING - LORRAINE SOMMERFELD

If you have any Amer­i­can friends, you know there’s a steady black mar­ket for things re­quested when you visit.

Ketchup chips, Cof­fee Crisps, Smar­ties, over-the-counter codeine.

In my world, it’s Hick­ory Sticks. Yes, the lowly lit­tle splin­tered potato bits that are as ad­dic­tive as they are salty.

I turned one friend on to them years ago by dis­play­ing them el­e­gantly in a mar­tini glass, like a por­cu­pine hunched over sleep­ing. I pre­tended they were a high con­cept ap­pe­tizer like kale chips that have been coaxed into lacy fans dipped in any­thing that can make kale taste bet­ter. Saw­dust tastes bet­ter than kale, so not much ef­fort is re­quired.

She ap­pre­ci­ated my artis­tic flair, but her eyes widened in dis­ap­point­ment on learn­ing that they would have to be smug­gled home for her fam­ily to en­joy.

The up­side to Hick­ory Sticks? They don’t break in tran­sit, be­cause they start out as small bro­ken things on pur­pose. Win-win.

But the true value of Hick­ory Sticks is that they are made from magic. You can­not empty a bag of Hick­ory Sticks. When I go on road trips, I pack ap­ples, al­monds, wa­ter … and Hick­ory Sticks. There is a math to every­thing else — how many hours, how many peo­ple — but there is no math to Hick­ory Sticks. You need one bag. You can open that bag in the first hour of the trip (and you will; trust me) and you will still have half a bag when you re­turn that night or a week later, even if ev­ery­one in the car is eat­ing them the en­tire time.

I like potato chips so much I can’t buy them, ever. I can in­hale a reg­u­lar sized bag of plain Lays in the time it took me to type that sen­tence.

When I buy the fam­ily size, Ari, 22, says, “Well, I guess you tech­ni­cally have a fam­ily.” And I can plow through that bag, too.

Once I bought the party size, and he said, “Well, I guess you’ve been to a party.” I can’t buy them. Some­one once asked my idea of a per­fect evening and I sim­ply replied, “Tie me to a salt lick and bring me a bot­tle of wine.”

A bag of Hick­ory Sticks weighs ap­prox­i­mately four or five pounds — a cou­ple of kilo­grams, eas­ily. A bag of potato chips weighs neg­a­tive five ounces. You can see al­ready why we’re ahead here. When you open a bag of chips you see air, be­cause con­tents may have set­tled in ship­ping. I learned that phrase as a kid, on learn­ing I’d bought a bag of air that ac­tu­ally sighed in dis­ap­point­ment along with me when I opened it.

Proc­ter and Gam­ble be­lieved they’d beat the prob­lem with Pringles, but Pringles taste like dust and salt that some­one waved a potato over. Maybe.

Some­one bril­liant went the other way, and made Hick­ory Sticks. They are the sol­diers of the potato chip world, the jour­ney­men play­ers who fill a void you can’t de­fine and some­times for­get. You don’t know you need them un­til you have them, and in a clutch they per­form bril­liantly, only to sink once again into ob­scu­rity as the world moves on to their more fa­mous cousins now be­ing flavoured with things like pou­tine and maple syrup: two flavours I hate in their orig­i­nal in­car­na­tion let alone when chem­i­cal­ized and added to potato chips. I am a purist. I re­cently vis­ited Amer­i­can friends and took a cou­ple bags of Hick­ory Sticks as part of a host­ess gift. I ac­ci­den­tally opened a bag on the road trip down, but rea­soned it didn’t mat­ter.

The one I gave them will last for­ever.

YALCINSONAT1, GETTY IM­AGES/ISTOCKPHOTO

I like potato chips so much I can’t buy them, ever. I can in­hale a reg­u­lar sized bag of plain Lays in the time it took me to type that sen­tence.

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