Pringles have been on sale. The deal is something like four cans for $3, or as I see it, “Potatoes are veggies, too!” I’m not saying that Pringles are technically vegetables, because potatoes are actually a starch. Take that one step further: I’m not saying Pringles are technically made of potatoes.
When I was in the middle of a particularly hectic week working and volunteering, I came home one night, popped open a can of Pringles, got into bed next to my husband and growled at him, “I’m going to eat this whole can and you’re not going to say a word.”
That’s 3.7 minutes of my life I’m not getting back.
I used to eat Pringles and Cool Ranch Doritos back in the day. They were (and are) the comfort food I did (and do) run to in times of stress. Foods of my youth. Until a decade ago, a can of Chef Boyardee Mini Ravioli made it into my cart once a year, enough to keep me feeling young and gassy when I needed it to work its magic. In my adult life, I don’t require a daily dose of The Chef; I’m not a third grader.
Other foods I’ve learned to live without are ramen noodles, Bugles and those chocolate covered pudding pies from Hostess. Remember those? I was a purist. I didn’t favor that chocolate-on-chocolate business. I liked the vanilla pudding filling, the one that always left what felt vaguely like a chemical burn in the back of my throat. That’s how you know it was made with love and very little oversight from the FDA.
In my youth, those foods were gifts I gave myself. That and chunky peanut butter, something that was a sure way to separate the Jets and the Sharks in 1980s New Jersey, the smooth lovers from the crunchy. Peanut butter that has actual peanuts in it? That’s not quite next level, like astronaut ice cream, but it makes for a strangely delectable, if oddly incestuous, sandwich experience. As for that freeze-dried ice cream, you either favored the Neapolitan or the ice cream sandwich, but no kid didn’t buy a packet of honest-to-goodness space food when they visited the science museum on their class trip. Not in 1988 they didn’t.
But it’s not 1988 any longer. My stomach doesn’t accept packaged and canned foods as a gift I give myself. No matter how much I think I’m going to love the Limited Edition Cheeseburger Pringles, they aren’t going to love me back. So, I made the smart move, the move my aging stomach could really get behind.
I bought the Memphis BBQ Pringles instead.
It’s a good time to take a moment to recognize and salute the Pringles current marketing hook: “You don’t just eat ‘em.” It begs the question. It begs a lot of questions. Primarily, what else would you do with them? I’ll wager you “eat ‘em” and then you have any one of many things eating you, like shame and heartburn.
All of which brings us back to Memphis–not the city, of course, but the naturally and artificially flavored Pringle. Something about the bounty of the four-for-$3 sale brought me back in time to the hours after school before my mom got home from work when nothing stood between me and Cool Ranch or my crunchy Jif. The hunger of adolescence makes it possible for a human being not quite approaching 100 pounds to polish off an entire bag of Wavy Lays and a can of Frito-Lay French Onion Dip. The hunger and buying power of a 100-plus pound adult in 2015 made a similar splurge seem like a directive, like a moment when Bobby Brown’s “My Prerogative” suddenly made sense on a deep level that could only have become apparent there in aisle 13 of the grocery store. I bought the Pringles, even the flavors the kids wouldn’t eat, like salt and vinegar and dill pickle. It’s our time, Bobby.
I ate the Memphis BBQ Pringles–not in one sitting, because this wasn’t the goes-down-easy red can–but enough in one binge that I learned something about myself that maybe I’d felt, right between my rib cage and deep down in my bowels, but hadn’t wanted to acknowledge until that night: I don’t have the gut of an adolescent any more. I’m not the kind of person who can still eat a pudding pie, not in this millennium. That person wouldn’t even recognize me, belching out Memphis sweet heat and knuckling my tummy, wondering if this time, eating this can of pressed potato flake chips, I’d wake up at 2:49 in the A.M. with indigestion that I’d temporarily confuse with a heart attack.
I did wake up. It wasn’t a heart attack. I didn’t eat the dill pickle Pringles. I did feel like I’d done something wrong and dirty. But I’m clean now, a few weeks out. I’ve grown as a snack eater, and I’m ready to embrace ancient grains hammered into minimally processed crisps and to shun the food devils of my youth.
Except the Cool Ranch. Bobby and I understand that Cool Ranch is forever.