Unbrave Eats: Lemon & Sesame Pringles

April 29, 2010

 

As you might have gathered from my catchy blog name, there are very few things that do not strike fear in my heart. Included in my many fears are ceiling fans, ladders, snakes, stray dogs, science fiction, caviar and Cabbage Patch Kids. But, above all else, my number one fear is regret.

Given my genetic make-up, my chance of living a long life is rather high despite my propensity towards deep-fried foods and gin and tonics. Given my inability to wear makeup (and, you know, my inability to actually talk to boys), my chances of finding someone willing to share that long life with me is admittedly a bit low. (Wahoo! That means more deep-fried food and gin and tonics for me!) I’ve come to terms with the fact that I might die a grizzled old hunchback at ninety, covered in cracker crumbs and cat hair, with only my bottle of Tanqueray to keep me company as I breathe my last. (The cats having taken off long ago, claiming I was too “clingy”.) I’m perfectly cool with that scenario. But, what I don’t want to have happen to me is to die filled with regret over all the things I should have done. (Meanwhile, should I die filled with deep-fried mozzarella sticks, that’s totally cool.)

It is with this fear of regret that I often justify actions so incredibly rash that they’re, well, downright regrettable. Two years ago, I flew a total of twenty-eight hours to spend a weekend in Detroit with a man I had only met briefly but thought I might be in love with. Even though I knew the action was rash and foolhardy and, you know, expensive, I was convinced that anything would be better than regretting my not going… anything including Detroit. As it turned out, when I got there I quickly realized that I wasn’t in love with him, he wasn’t in love with me and I was in Detroit… for an entire weekend.

One might consider my current venture equally rash and potentially regrettable. I’ve given up a decently paid job at a respectable university, a rent-free apartment and a social life that included real-live humans (not just cats and Twitter followers), to spend the next year bumming through Asia. I have hardly any savings, a travel insurance policy that doesn’t protect me should I fall into a volcano or get caught up in a religious war, and a fall-back plan that consists of hitching a ride home on a pirate ship and spending the rest of my days on my parent’s couch. (I hope they serve gin and tonics there!)

I should probably be spending these years advancing my career, building up a retirement fund and figuring out what the heck a mortgage is, but, I knew, if I didn’t take this trip I’d regret it. Then again, chances are high that someday I will also regret not having a retirement fund… but hopefully by then the Earth will have self-imploded (this being my current retirement plan) or the monetary system, as we know it, will evolve to the point that, instead of using cash and credit cards, we will use buttons in exchange for goods and services (this being my fall-back plan… and the reason why I hoard all those teeny-tiny ziplock bags of buttons that come with new pieces of clothing).

Usually I use my fear of regret as an excuse to do whatever it is I get it in my head to do (even if that involves a weekend trip to Detroit from Japan… or filling my carry-on luggage full of buttons rather than, say, toiletries and a change of clothes). It’s actually quite amazing what this fear of regret will help you justify: anything from purchasing a new pair of sequined sandals (despite the fact that you swore off sequins after that last sequin-induced toe injury) or a new flavor of snack product. Rarely do I pass up any opportunity afforded to me, especially if that opportunity is available in shiny or sold in potato chip form.

But, two weeks ago, I did. And, let’s just say, it’s been a difficult two weeks.

I was shopping at the local Costco-like, big box grocery store, when I spotted the new “Fruit & Nut” Pringles, which included Lemon & Sesame flavor and Blueberry & Hazelnut flavor. Of course, I was intrigued. I mean, come on, who wouldn’t be?! It’s like a soul of a muffin trapped inside a potato chip body! This is intrigue at it’s height! I was eager to try them out, especially the Lemon and Sesame flavor, but seeing as I was at the big box store, the canisters were only being sold in a two-tube-pack. And, sadly, not a variety two-tube-pack. If I had been able to get one of each flavor then those bad boys would have been in my shopping cart in a second!

I figured I could polish off one canister if need be, but two canisters seemed like a big commitment. I’ve very rarely met a Pringle I didn’t like — and I’ve had quite a few funky-flavored Pringles in my day (including a canister of “Limited Edition Funky Mustard Old American Circus” Pringles that were picked up in Tokyo that turned out to be quite the processed-potato-crisp delight!). Despite my past good experiences, what if lurking behind Mr. Pringle’s knowing mustache was not a tasty snack but a big tube of salty regret?

So instead of tossing those tubes into my cart as I should have done, I passed them by… a decision that would haunt me for almost two weeks. Yes, yes, I said “haunt me,” okay? I realize this may be seen as a bit overdramatic by some of you. But, honestly, when you’re unemployed and living alone in the jungle and your social life consists of two cats, you’re not presented with the usual laundry list of potentially regrettable actions; like, say, crying in front of your boss or getting stuck on the wrong train or buying pitchers of over-priced margaritas for everyone in the bar because you were convinced that this was the only way you could make everyone like you.

In fact, this wasn’t the only time I have regretted passing up a purchase since coming to Thailand. A while back, I spotted a pack of something called “Homey Crackers” and didn’t buy them. Another time I had a choice between the Nivea body lotion and something called “Whitey Body Cream”; in an uncreative move, I chose the Nivea. Once I was at the same big box grocery store and they were frying fresh donuts in the bakery section, and I actually walked right on by that big huge vat of donuts bobbing in hot oil without buying a single one (Yeah, I know, I’m pretty shocked to admit this myself). But, never before, have I spent two weeks filled with regret over a purchase not made (I think the donut decision was worth at least a week and a half of regret…).

When I went back to the big box grocery store on Monday of this week, I had had enough of being haunted by the memory of the one that got away. (Yes, I said “haunted” again, and, yes, I am talking about the tube of potato chips when I say the “one that got away”.) After shoving the Lemon & Sesame Pringles two-tube-pack into my cart, I then proceeded to shop for all my other the essentials: a twelve-pack of cat food, a bushel of tomatoes, two pounds of rice, eight pounds of cookies… okay, maybe not so much rice. Staring at the huge pile of groceries in my shopping cart, I knew I’d never be able to fit all of it into the basket on the back of my bike. I had learned from experience, that it was easy to overestimate the size of my bike basket (not to mention my need for cookies) and underestimate the size of the groceries. The past couple times I had been to the store, I had bought way too many groceries and had been forced to dangle plastic bags off of my handlebars, a move that seriously impaired my (already seriously impaired) sense of equilibrium. So I sadly put the Pringles back on the shelf and hurried on home.

Over the course of the week, I stopped in every mini-mart and 7-11 that I came across to see if I could find the Lemon & Sesame Pringles being sold in a less regrettable one-tube-pack. Sadly, my search was fruitless (or should I say “fruit-and-nut-less”?). In an attempt to overpower the bittersweet taste of regret, I started trying out other flavors of potato chips (Okay, it’s possible I am getting a bit overdramatic with this. I mean, come on, “bittersweet taste of regret”? Sheez! I am just talking about potato chips and not something important like love, death or, umm, cake).

First, there were the Sweet Basil chips (eaten while drinking beer, of course, because regret should always be served with an alcoholic beverage of some sort). What isn’t mentioned in the name of these chips (and is only hinted at by the drawing on the packaging) is that these are not only flavored with sweet basil but also chili pepper. As you can imagine, the sweet basil is no match for the chili pepper, so all I tasted while eating these was the spice and none of the sweetness (that is until my tongue went numb).

Next were the “Supreme Sausage Pizza” chips. These also didn’t exactly live up to their name. Smelling overpoweringly of ketchup, I could definitely taste the tomato sauce (or, umm, ketchup) and cheese, but there was not even a hint of sausage (let alone “supreme sausage”!).

And, finally, there were the “Nori Seaweed” chips, which were definitely my favorite of the bunch. Dusted with flakes of crispy nori, the seaweed taste was mild and not overpowering, and it made me feel nostalgic for Japan (where I can’t remember ever actually having seen seaweed-flavored potato chips for sale, but, you know, whatever).

By this morning, I had had enough of filling the void with random potato chip flavors. I was determined to go back to the store to finally buy the Pringles, even though I knew that I might end up regretting buying them more then regretting having not bought them.

First of all, there was the whole two-tube-pack factor. If I didn’t like them after all, I would have to figure out what to do with the second tube. I doubted the cats would eat them (they had turned up their noses at all my other offerings of potato chips). I toyed with the idea of sending them to my family or friends in the States so they could try them out, but I worried that the whole “Fruit & Nut” thing might violate quarantine laws prohibiting the shipment of fruit. The last thing I wanted to do was mess with the Thai postal service and end up in Thai prison. I’ve seen Brokedown Palace, and I can tell you for a fact that they don’t serve any kind of potato chips in Thai prison!

Secondly, there was the forty-minute bike ride that would be required to get to the store in order to buy the chips. While the store is only a few miles away, the majority of those miles are on the superhighway. I have gained a lot more confidence in my bike-riding ability (if not my sense of equilibrium) since the first time I attempted to ride my bike on the superhighway, but it’s still not a task I take on lightly or very regularly. Even though there’s a small vehicle lane on the side of the superhighway, this lane is often used by other, non-small vehicles, such as turning vehicles, parked vehicles and, in one frightening instance, huge, speeding bus-vehicles.

Plus, there was the whole issue of the weather. In the past week or so, rainy season has descended upon this part of Thailand, meaning regular storms. While these storms are usually restricted to the afternoons, the weather of Thailand, much like the traffic, is not exactly predictable (I mean, for a month we’ve had temperatures of over 100 degrees Fahrenheit! Who in their right mind would predict that?!). This morning I woke up to blue skies fringed in storm clouds, and I was worried the storm might descend a bit earlier than usual. I doubted my bike riding skills were up to battling a thunderstorm… I also doubted whether the packaging on my hard-won Pringles purchase would be water-proof or not.

Not only was I a bit worried the clouds would open up on my ride to the grocery store, I was a bit worried my intestinal track might do the same. After finishing off my breakfast this morning, I instantly started to feel queasy. While it could have been any number of things making me feel sick, I suspected my breakfast was the culprit. You see, a week or so ago while in the throes of non-purchased-Pringles-regret, I stumbled upon a four-pack of yogurt with “cereal beans and lotus nuts.” Curious about what a “cereal bean” might be, I snapped up the four-pack and headed home with my find. Upon digging into the yogurt, I discovered that, much like the illustration on the packaging suggested, “cereal beans” meant nothing more than sweet corn and kidney beans, a combination I have to say would make for a delightful, hearty winter stew… but wasn’t quite so delightful served up in yogurt. But, since I’m stuck with the four-pack, I have no choice but to eat it (Again, the cats, showing much more discerning taste then myself, refuse to even touch the stuff).

Despite all my misgivings about the pending shopping trip, I hopped on my bike and headed out. The trip to the supermarket proved surprisingly uneventful, and the only event that did happen was a pleasant one. While making my way on the superhighway, a cute cyclist in tight bike shorts with the word “Thailand” written across his backside, zoomed past me, flashed me a huge smile and waved at me. For a brief moment, the world of motorbikes and parked cars and speeding buses all faded away, and it was just me and my bicycle and the cute guy and his bicycle shorts in our own little world of superhighway cyclists. It was like we had a kinship that can only be felt by those who’ve faced an oncoming bus with little more than a bike helmet and a scream to keep you safe.

And, then the moment was gone… along with the guy and his bike shorts because he was super fast. My trip back from the supermarket, after purchasing the much-desired chips, was slightly more eventful. A girl on a motorbike cut me off and turned in front of me. Because I was too busy thinking about my new Pringles purchase (and, admittedly, the guy in the tight Thailand shorts), I didn’t even see her until I’d almost skidded into her. Not five seconds later a truck almost backed into me, at which point I decided I’d better keep my eye on the road and my mind off of potato chips and cuties in cycling shorts.

I was barely off my bike when I cracked into the pack of chips. I was surprised to find the lemon flavor was sweet making the chips taste exactly like lemon pound cake; that is, if lemon pound cake came in the form of a potato chip. This was not altogether disappointing (I mean, anything that tastes like cake can’t be that bad), but it’s not really what I had spent two weeks expecting. What was disappointing was that I couldn’t taste the sesame flavor at all, and I’m a huge fan of anything sesame-flavored (especially if it happens to be deep-fried and possibly served with a gin and tonic).

After having a few more, I decided that the Lemon & Sesame Pringles were definitely “dessert chips.” The question is, Mr. Pringle, did the world really need a dessert chip? I think there’s nothing wrong with replacing your dinner with a non-dinner food, such as pancakes or, say, an entire bag of Nori Seaweed potato chips and a can of beer, but dessert is a different matter. I am strictly against replacing dessert with any non-dessert food. I particularly hate it when people try to replace my dessert with fruit (as if they thought I wouldn’t notice!).

While I admit the idea of making a dessert chip is a clever one, I am a little bit worried that this might threaten the existence of dessert. The whole fruit-for-dessert phenomenon has made cake enough of an endangered species, the last thing we need is for Fruit & Nut chips to make dessert go extinct. While I was happy to have tried the Lemon & Sesame chips, if only to spare me more regret in my life, I can’t help hoping that this is the last I will ever taste of a dessert chip. As much as I don’t want to live a life of regret, a life without cake would be even worse.

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