HOUSE OF CHIPS

We all have addictions. I’m not talking about the big ones, after all, this is a family rated story. I’m talking about the daily little ones. The ones that don’t really harm anyone else, and don’t stop us from going to school, or work, or the gym. I’m talking about the mild little secret yens we all have. These are the callings in the middle of the night to sneak down to the kitchen to get “just one” (fill in the blank) to soothe us, to reward us, to help us get back to sleep. You can’t relate? Come on, even St. Francis had a desire at early dawn for fresh blueberries from the hedge outside his monastic cell.

In Italian there is a wonderful word called voglia. (It’s a tricky word if you’re trying to saying it out loud right now…. just keep the “g” silent and you’ve got it). Voglia means you have a craving, a want, a desire for something, (usually food related) that you just (no pun intended) hunger for. Voglia sits on your shoulder like a little chirping bird, repeating the name of the yearning over and over and over until you go mad and make a run for the pantry. Voglia can make you break your New Year’s resolve, turn your diet into a disaster and alter your “no more” to “oh, forget it.”

There are the traditional food addictions, of course: french fries, anything chocolate, anything sweet (particularly those only-available-once-a-year Girl Scout Thin Mint cookies). The list is endless. I can only imagine the variety of items that are craved for around the world….but this is truth time. This is the time to confess and take steps toward taming the beast of my addiction. I’m going to face the tiger that has me in its hold and demand freedom. Freedom from, yes, now you know….chips.

It started simply, as a teenager when I was first introduced to Fritos. The first time I tasted that crunchy curved piece of salty cornmeal I was hooked. The little bag, so perky, so happily yellow and red. The delightful way you could pop one into your mouth in the middle of geometry, and let it sort of melt onto your tongue, so it wouldn’t “crunch” and make the guy next to you beg for one. They were affordable in the vending machine, they were easy to stuff in your book bag, and they were heaven any time of the day.

Then, there were potato chips. Plain perfection. No BBQ or onion or garlic or other weirdness forced upon them. Gently curved flakes of potatoes packaged in perfection like Pringles or tossed around loosely in a bag of Lay’s. Ah, potato chips – that beautiful light golden yellow, that sprinkling of salt, and that quiet little crunch. They were the perfect accompaniment to a night of TV watching, or book reading. The repeated motion of hand to bag to choose the next perfect morsel. The journey into your mouth and onto your tongue, the slow devouring of the chip, then the ritual of licking the salt off your fingers and repeat.

From potato chips I moved on to bigger and better happiness - the greatest chip of all, the one that California is the king of, the one that can stand alone or be submerged into a perfect dish of fresh guacamole…..the TORTILLA CHIP! Ah! Be still my heart. Every Mexican restaurant has them…for free! They are tossed in tiny strips into soup, they are sprinkled on tostadas, they are big, they are little, they are baked, not fried! They are terribly, wonderful, impossible to resist when sitting in a little bowl in front of you while you wait for the “real” meal. They tease me, call my name, knowing my weakness. They hide in the pantry waiting for a party, but never quite make it to the event, needing to be replaced at the last minute. They haunt me. They are my downfall every time. Those crunchy, corn-pressed, salted triangles of yumminess – plain or with a hint of lime – they seize me every time and I descend into a party-for-one indulgence.

Alas, I have tried to give them up, to relinquish their grip on my taste buds. I have failed. Miserably. I have yet to achieve the goal of stilling the call of those three sided fiends. I have meditated on the idea of giving them up forever, and I shudder. I have tried to trick myself by eating other kinds of “healthy” chips, only to find myself, like a doomed woman, returning to the aisle of tortilla.

Maybe some day I will find the inner strength, once and for all, to say “No!” to their tantalizing saltiness and mean it. Meanwhile, I forgive myself, and allow a once-in-a-while surrender to sit on the couch, grab a bag and know, that I will forever, probably, live in a house of chips.

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