Sunday, April 29, 2012

My existence is based on potato chips

I was going to save this post for next week but I can't wait that long. I read 84, Charing Cross Road (by Helene Hanff-go read it as soon as possible) this weekend which made me even more excited writing this post. Enjoy a bonus from the Island!

My family is from the great state of Michigan. Both of my parents grew up in southwest Detroit and met in high school. The majority of my extended family still lives in the Detroit area. I love Detroit and Michigan as much as I love New Orleans and Louisiana (that's where the whole Southern/Midwestern part of the blog subtitle comes from-there's a reason for everything).

People make fun of Michigan and never seem to have any nice things to say about Detroit but I think that's usually because they've never experienced Michigan (and I don't mean in a Tim Allen Pure Michigan kind of way) or at least given Michigan a chance. There's lots to do and cool people and great restaurants and Dearborn Music. And Hamtramck Disneyland. And The Henry Ford. (Yeah, the Henry Ford Museum is called The Henry Ford. I don't get it either-he's not buried there so the Henry Ford is not on the premises.) You can experience the Great Lakes and some amazing architecture and Red Wings hockey. And the UP! Detroit is the birthplace of Motown and MC5 and Iggy Pop and Eminem and the auto industry.  Michigan is one of the leading producers of fruit in the US—Michigan cherries and blueberries are amazing. And Michigan cows are much happier than California cows. I'm sure of it - I believe it's the lack of pretension. Kellogg’s Cereal is in Battlecreek; Ball Park Franks and Hebrew National are also based in Michigan. You're welcome America!

My three favorite Michigan based food companies are Vernors (which is the oldest surviving soft drink in the US), Faygo (the Original Party Pop!), and Better Made Potato Chips. When we would go back to Michigan for visits when I was growing up, we’d always stock up on all three because you couldn’t get them outside of the state. Now you can get Vernors and Faygo all over (although you can’t always get Rock & Rye outside of Michigan…sigh) but you usually pay more for it. All three have online stores too so I guess I could pay an exorbitant amount in shipping to have Red Pop, Rock & Rye, Vernors, and the best potato chips ever made shipped to my door.

Which brings me to how Better Made and I are connected. Imagine if you will, Detroit in the early 1940s. World War II is looming and women are working in new industries across the city. One woman, Kathleen, worked at the Better Made Potato Chip factory where (I'm sure) she made amazing snack foods for the war effort. While working there, she met another woman named Frances. The two became friends and Frances introduced Kathleen to her brother, Stanley. Kathleen was engaged but that didn't stop her from writing to Stanley while he was stationed in the Pacific, you know, as a friend (because friends wrote to one another back then). She wrote to him throughout the war despite that fact that her fiancé was not pleased with her doing so and wanted her to stop. Kathleen didn’t stop writing letters to Stanley but she did dump the fiancé. When Stanley returned from the war they began their courtship and eventually married. In 1947, my uncle Joe was born and in 1949, my mother was born. If not for Better Made potato chips, my grandparents might never have met.

I love this story for so many reasons but my favorite is that my grandparents wrote letters to one another. Victory mail (what the US Government called wartime mail) was a major morale booster and encouraged. People wrote to their loved ones but also wrote to men from their town, friends of friends, and complete strangers. Letter writing was a patriotic duty. If you read this blog regularly, you know I'm obsessed with letter writing and want to find someone to write letters to. Now I know that it's in my blood and I'm not just complaining about the death of civility in the digital age. I also often wonder if my great Aunt Frances intended for all of this to happen when she introduced them. I never asked her so I'll just pretend that this was exactly what she intended. 

I thought about this nugget of awesome from my family’s history on Friday when I found out that Better Made is on Twitter. I found them through an education blogger I follow (because Twitter makes us all smarter). Of course, I immediately followed Better Made. And do you know what happened? Better Made followed me!! This is my single greatest achievement on Twitter to date. I admit I don't use Twitter to its fullest potential but I love following companies and celebrities. You get to be part of their (often bizarre) 140 character world. I particularly like it when two celebrities have a "conversation" and I get to read it. On the same day I followed Better Made, I also started following Molly Ringwald and Andrew McCarthy. I feel like I’m taking part in the 2012 version of their computer moment from Pretty in Pink.

So thanks Better Made. Without you, I would not exist and the world would not have amazing potato chips (and other snack foods) to enjoy. Check them out at Or you can follow them on Twitter @BetterMade. If you ever find yourself in Michigan (or maybe just at the Detroit airport), do yourself a favor and buy a Better Made snack - I prefer the regular potato chips and pretzels. You'll thank me later.

Yes, I have a Better Made purse. Don't be jealous.

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