Like an itch that you just can’t seem to scratch, an old memory popped up recently that I haven’t been able to shake. As a lifelong addict of potato chips (with my own regional favorites) I began remembering some chips of my youth. When I was 10-11 there was a brand of chips that was extremely popular that are no longer made. It was a fancier variety of what I believed to be one of the large brands and I have distinct memories of eating them at my sister’s regattas and having many conversations with strangers about how wonderful they were.
Not having the slightest clue as to what they were called, I turned to my parents who might remember this phenomenon. Sadly they had no memory of this chip, but they too suggested that it was probably one of the larger brands. Several google searches turned up nothing and I had nothing else to go off of other than we ate the barbecue flavor a lot.
It was killing me not being able to find the name of these chips that were so significant in my childhood. Nothing short of a miracle would bring me the name of these chips, and that’s exactly what happened.
I was watching an episode of Friends recently, “The One with the Rumor,” where Brad Pitt guest stars in a Thanksgiving episode. When I noticed Joey entering the apartment holding a large bag of chips and I immediately paused the show. Those were the chips. He was holding my chips! The episode first aired on Thanksgiving night in 2001, which matched up with the timeline, and the bag was instantly recognizable.
They were Lay’s Bistro Gourmet which with the little information available seemed to be available from 2001-2003, and while produced by the snack food giant Lays, were supposed to be a more flavorful and fancier chip. The barbecue flavor, which I remember was a favorite of mine, was officially titled the Applewood BBQ & Smoked Cheddar. Other flavors offered were Roasted Garlic & Herb, Sharp Cheddar & Jalapeño and Classic.
Unfortunately there is little evidence available online as to the fact that they ever existed. Other than several grocers claiming to still be selling them, and a petition created to have the chips brought back, there is not a lot of information. *(Side-note: there is no date on the petition and instead of any signatures the website claims to have 26 “I like!” and 2 “I don’t like.” I don’t know how you would even count that, is it like points? Do the 2 “I don’t like” get subtracted from the “I like!”?)
This website has somehow turned petitions into a game of points and a joke. Although a petition to bring back a brand of snack food that has 26 signatures or “l like!”’s is kind of already a joke. Personally, I do not think that is how a petition even works, but I guess that’s just the way this chip crumbles.
There is some sadness knowing that I will never be able to taste this chip again, I will never be able to remember how the flavors danced upon my taste buds, how just the essence of this chip made me who I was, who I am, who I will become. But sometimes being heard and seeing proof that they existed is enough. This isn’t one of those times; I’d rather just have the chip. In a world where everyone has forgotten, I just want to believe.
It should also be noted that while the remembering of a certain brand of potato chips is what was significant to me about this episode of Friends, it was also memorable for some unfortunate reasons as well, mainly the insensitive comments about those in the intersex community.
During the episode, Brad Pitt plays a former high school classmate of the Friends characters. In high school he was overweight and was bullied by Rachel so out of revenge Pitt’s character, along with Ross, formed the “I hate Rachel Green Club.” In the club, they started a rumor that Rachel was a “hermaphrodite,” meaning that she had both male and female genitalia. This was used as a point of humor in the episode, that she would have both sets of genitalia. The word “hermaphrodite” is now outdated and offensive to some in the community, with the preferred term being intersex.
This was a source of anger from the intersex community, and they even requested NBC to apologize before future airings of that episode calling it “ignorant, insulting, degrading, and absolutely unprofessional.”
As far as I can tell, NBC did not apologize or issue any sort of messaging about the issue before future airings.