I was going to wade into the Kyle Rittenhouse verdict, but then three things happened. First the Ahmaud Arbery verdict hit the news, which seemed something that was relevant to my take on the topic. Then I followed a link to a blog that featured the results of some research that identified the most popular junk food in each of the fifty states of the U.S. The third thing is that it is a holiday weekend, and I have decided (in my most imperious version of myself) that we shall all lighten up this weekend and stop harping on things. Except my state’s choice in junk food. In this case, some harping is required.
It appears that last summer, some folks dove into something called Google Trends (I didn’t know that Google was in charge of trends now, but should have suspected as much) and they claim to have discovered the most popular junk food in each state. The source I read* did not go into detail about how the data was collected, sorted, sifted or otherwise sliced and diced, but the result was horrifying: My state of Indiana has a favorite junk food snack – and it is Pringles.
Yes, Pringles, the Potato-ish chips that are formed from some kind of food-grade starch slurry and molded into saddle-shaped “chips” that stack upon each other in a tall cylindrical can, much as those cheap white chairs of ABS plastic that are found at Wal Marts everywhere in the spring. And, truthfully, I think they likely taste about the same. OK, the Pringles are saltier.
I remember when Pringles were first introduced – they were a novelty that was more about the packaging and the presentation than the actual taste. They have certainly not shoved traditional potato chips from their shelf space, but have stubbornly hung on to a niche market for those who simply must have their potato chips from a can. Who knows, perhaps Indiana is one place that kept the fat, bald men in some board room from sighing and saying “I guess we are agreed, we have to stop Pringles production because we just don’t sell enough of them.” In which case I say “A pox on my house.”
I guess I don’t actually hate Pringles – Pringles don’t have enough presence or importance in my life to generate hate, or any other emotion of even moderate strength. Did my single summer working in a potato chip factory as a youth inoculate me against lowered standards for what constitutes an acceptable potato chip? That is probably true – if making your potato chips requires more than potatoes, frying oil and salt, you are making them wrong.
But it is hard to understand the depth of Indiana’s junk food fail without looking at some other states. Some like traditional chips of various kinds, like Ruffles (Alabama), Lays (Georgia & West Virginia), Salt & Vinegar chips (South Carolina) and kettle chips (Oregon). Then then there are the states that hit other shelves in the same aisle: Cheez-Its (Arizona and Washington), Cheetos (California), Doritos (Arkansas), Funyuns (Texas), Skinny Pop (Illinois) and Fritos (Delaware, Kentucky and Nebraska).
Snack cakes have a few fans, such as Cosmic Brownies (Colorado), Mini Donuts (Florida), Twinkies (Mississippi) and muffins (Vermont). Then there are the cookie states: Nutter Butter (Kansas), Grandma’s Cookies (Missouri), Rice Krispy Treats (Montana), Chips Ahoy (New York). And we must not forget Oreos (Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, New Jersey and Virginia).
The candy aisle is popular in many places. There are some outliers who avoid chocolate, such as Sour Patch Kids (Michigan, Oklahoma), or Starburst (North Carolina, Ohio). But most states that fancy candy go for the good stuff: Pay Day (Louisiana), Crunch Bar (Massachusetts), Snickers (Minnesota), Kit Kat (Nevada), Almond Joy (New Hampshire), Milky Way (South Dakota); Baby Ruth (Tennessee), Three Musketeers (Utah) and Twix (Wisconsin). And it will surprise nobody that Hershey is tops in Pennsylvania.
A few places prefer their junk food less junky: Cliff/Granola bars (Idaho, Alaska), Sunflower seeds (North Dakota, Wyoming) and even beef jerkey (New Mexico). And most mystifying of all are the two States in the northeast (Maine and Rhode Island) that favor Ritz Crackers. Are things really that grim in those places? “My girlfriend just dumped me, and I really need a box of Ritz crackers” said nobody, ever.
I would gladly trade places with most of those States. OK, except for the granola and Ritz places. And isn’t it weird that no State lists pretzels as a favorite? I would have thought that either Pennsylvania (which is famous for its Dutch pretzels) or Wisconsin (which is famous for the beer that goes with them) would have gone that direction, but no. And Wisconsin’s taste for both beer and Twix bars is kind of mystifying too.
I still cannot figure out the Indiana love of Pringles. Although I looked them up and it seems that my state was where they were first sold when introduced in 1968. I suppose that we may just be a loyal bunch here. Perhaps gullible too, because during that first five years the government allowed Pringles to be referred to on the cans as “potato chips”. Now they have to call them “crisps”. Because the government isn’t wrong about everything.
Although I might prefer living in a place that appreciates Cheetos (could that be the only reason to live in California these days?) or in Tennessee (because Baby Ruth. Best. Candy bar. Ever.), I am stuck here in Pringletopia.
If I have to be honest, the biggest problem with Pringles is that I don’t like them that well. Well, that and if someone hands me a can that is half full I will hand them back a can that is, well, not. As in not having any “crisps” left at all. And I hate myself afterwards. There is a certain level of respectability that comes from being able to say “I ate myself sick on Doritos” or “If I have another mini donut I am going to barf.” But admitting that you have gorged on Pringles is like admitting that you spent last evening at home glugging on a bottle of MD 20-20 or Richard’s Wild Irish Rose. “Gad, man – have you no standards?” is the question I ask myself, and am left with a quite unsatisfactory answer.
Sharp-eyed readers may have noticed that there is one state’s snack that I did not mention – that of Iowa. That is because Iowans share the shame of we Hoosiers as outsized fans of Pringles. But that’s OK. Perhaps we can start a support group. Or at least be a bad influence on Illinois, for a change.
Opening photo: A collection of Pringles cans from the Reddit page ANormalDayInAmerica. It is not noted whether the photo was taken in Indiana or Iowa.
The Article referenced was found at http://www.domigood.com/2021/07/the-most-popular-junk-food-in-america.html