Dear Pavlov, what can I eat in college?

This question came from a thoughtful young lad about to head off to his freshman year in college. Now as we all know there are many questions you need to stress out about with regard to college. Will I get laid? Will I be able to get ample amounts of adult beverages? Crabs aren’t permanent are they? These are all questions worth thinking about. But the following question is one you shouldn’t think about… until you’re about 60.

Pavlov, I’m a senior in High School and am a self-professed foodie. I enjoy eating well and I’m afraid college food will be everything it’s cracked up to be. Do you have any ideas or tricks for me, or should I just dream of future great meals.

Thanks, Animal

Dearest Animal,

College is a time you’re supposed to look back on and lament about all the awful food you ate, things you did, and parents money you wasted just to end up your first five years out of college as a barista trying to “find yourself.” Like your friends will probably tell you, “Hack your Ramen Brah.”  Back in the day we called it “cooking funk”, we didn’t know the joys of Sriracha, fish sauce or the word brah. The craziest thing you could get in the Asian “section” of the Asian food aisle in the grocery store in rural NH was La Choy chow mein in a can!

I personally have eaten everything from egg shells, a dead lobster, drank beer out of someone’s barn boot and even drank vodka from a plastic bottle. Were these all good experinces? No, no, no aaaaand no, (Wolfschmidt, you are one cruel son of a bitch!) but it’s preferable to telling my grandchildren about an excellent steak tartare I had as a Freshman.

You should instead be telling them stories out of earshot of “grandma” about pizza you had of questionable provinance you got from a convenience store at 3 am, before going home with a woman of even more questionable moral fiber. Then upon awaking a day and a half later, leaning on the mercy of your friends better nature to help you piece the events together. What was up with the goat, and where did the prosthetic eye come from?

Trust me you’ll get to know the good sausage joints and hell maybe even educate your fellow classmates on the virtues of good pizza. Of course good pizza and beer being what they are tend to come at a premium, so you’ll get to start using your education in real world situations. You will be learning about such things as “economies of scale” and the thought process will go thusly.

If we all chip in and get the good pizza and the good beer we will all get one slice of pizza and maybe 2 beers. If we all chip in and get the broke-assed pizza and the broke-assed beer…we will all have full stomachs plus breakfast. As an ancillary benefit to having plenty of beer, you will have stories to tell the grandkids about like “how I tried to fight all my dorm mates”, “I was a gentleman and held a girl’s hair while she took the toilet for a spin”, and how you “nearly got grandma’s best friend pregnant.”

Don’t worry, you’ll have plenty of time to focus on great food… probably when your 60 after having paid off your student loans, your mortgage, cars, put 4 kids through that same damned college, Well 3-1/2 kids, because Junior thinks he’s a rock star and quit his junior year and off to CA, bought more throw pillows, throw rugs, picture frames, shelves, guest towels and window treatments (that’s the expensive way your wife will say shades) than you care to think about.

By then however, you’re just going to want some peace and quiet. You’ll be on your way to the grocery store across town because it’s 15 minutes of extra silence (read:less nagging). On the way there you’re going to see that sausage stand you used to eat at in college and smell those peppers and onions mixed with wonderfully spiced charred sausage and you’re going to realize…. you didn’t miss a damned thing. Sometimes food is as much about the experience and the company as it is about the actual food.

Enjoy your freshman year!

XXOO, Pav

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Route 11 Potato Chips

A while back I wrote how Lay’s Sriracha flavored chips were as exciting as a bag of cat litter but not nearly as tasty. Why can’t a big potato chip company with a big R&D department and even bigger pockets create a spicy potato chip that can stand on it’s own?

I was lamenting to friends how I was disappointed with the Sriracha flavored chip falling short due to unnecessary cheese flavors, and a lack of faith in the spicy Sriracha condiment. One of my friends interrupted and asked me if I had tried Mama Zuma’s chips? I hadn’t, so I decided to check it out.  Turns out the name of the company is Route 11 Potato Chips based in Mount Jackson, VA.

I got in touch with them via FB and asked if I might get samples of the Mama Zuma’s Revenge chip. They not only sent me the flavor I wanted, they also sent some of each flavor they make. I’m sure it was quiet to the point of Poe’s Tell-Tale Heart in the room when I opened the box, but in my mind it was filled with a triumphant version of Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus when I saw those beautiful bags.

The first chips I tasted were the Mama Zuma’s Revenge Habanero Chips.  I opened the bag, peered in and discovered happily these were Kettle cooked chips as are all the other flavors in the Route 11 line. I took a few chips and began to munch, and initially I was disappointed.

I noticed however, as I kept eating the flavor intensified and kept building. There was no unpleasant “off” tastes, no cheesy notes just the flavor of sweet heat and subtle notes of smoke, garlic and paprika in the background.  The heat and flavor these chips delivered was just right.

The modus operandi was the same for all the chips, subtle flavors that initially seemed light, then after a few handfuls just make sense. The best example of this is in their dill pickle flavored potato chips. Most dill pickle flavored chips start off as vinegary with a hint of dill and leave you feeling as though you’ve been sucking on dill flavored 9-volt batteries. Not so with Route 11 chips, the overwhelming flavor you get is of Dill and the vinegar builds to a pleasant level.

I found myself enjoying all the chips, the lightly salted were a great all around chip. The sour cream and chive weren’t overly flavored so as to leave you wanting more as opposed to wanting to lick the southbound end of a northbound skunk to get the excess “taste” out of your mouth.  The sweet potato chips were surprisingly good letting the taste of the sweet potato more or less speak for itself.

The BBQ chips were thoughtfully seasoned and delicious as were the Salt n Vinegar. The only chips in their line that I didn’t seem to get were the Chesapeake Crab chips. I understand the gist of these is to have a crab boil sort of flavor reminiscent of old bay. But while I was eating them I couldn’t help but wonder…what am I supposed to eat these with?! It’s a small point and not being from the Mid-Atlantic, maybe the Old Bay flavor was the whole point but it was lost on me.

There’s a lot to love about Route 11 Potato Chips, from the product itself to the company as a whole. I love that they have a sustainability mission and that they make their chips in small batches. The only thing I am somewhat disappointed in is their use of social media or lack thereof. They are on Facebook but postings are somewhat sporadic. They are not on Twitter as of yet but I have a feeling that will change in the near future.

So the next time you’re thinking of getting potato chips for a sandwich or even a large gathering, pick up a few bags of Route 11. They are great chips from a small company, and are dedicated to making the best possible product in an environmentally responsible way. Happy snacking!

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