Chips are my guilty pleasure. If I had to create a “last meal” they would be included on the menu. Yes, with all the glorious foods I’m privileged to savor, the alluring chip holds a special place in my pantry.

Chip trivia: Foodie legend tells us the first “chips” appeared in 1853 at the Lodge at Saratoga Springs, New York. They were referred to for decades as “Saratoga Chips.” Native American chef George Crum receives credit for creating “Saratoga Chips.”

It’s said that Crum created the first chip because he was tired of complaints from a specific customer, unhappy with the thickness of the chef’s french fries. Another, possibly urban, legend states this customer was Cornelius Vanderbilt.

The Crum claim to fame comes into question if one digs deeper. In the 1822 cookbook of William Kitchiner, “The Cook’s Oracle,” we find a recipe for “Potatoes fried in Slices or Shavings.” The recipe tells us “peel potatoes, slice about a quarter of an inch thick, or cut shavings round and round, dry well in a clean cloth, and fry in lard or drippings.”

Crum’s legend may be the most well known because one rendering of this story was made popular in a 1973 ad campaign by St. Regis Paper Co., which manufactured packaging for chips.

The average potato chip is .04 to .08 of an inch thick.

Production of potato chips ceased during World War II. They were considered “unessential food.”

It takes 1,000 pounds of potatoes to make 350 pounds of chips.

The most popular chip flavors in the U.S. are Regular, Barbecue, Sour Cream and Onion.

Enter the 20th century and potato chips extend beyond chef-cooked restaurant eatables and begin to be mass-produced for home enjoyment.

Ohio-based “Mike-sell’s Potato Chip Company,” founded in 1910, is reported to be the oldest potato chip company in the U.S.

Back in the day, chips sold in markets were sold in tins or selected from bins or barrels.

Laura Scudder, a Monterey Park entrepreneur, began instructing workers to take home sheets of waxed paper to iron into bag form. These bags were then filled with chips at her factory. Scudder’s pioneering method reduced breakage and kept chips fresher longer. This innovation, followed by the invention of cellophane, allowed potato chips to become a widespread product.

Chips remained unseasoned until Joe “Spud” Murphy, owner of Irish chip company “Tayto,” developed technology to add seasoning during manufacture in the 1950s. Their first seasoned chips: Cheese and Onion, Barbecue, Salt and Vinegar. This innovation was notable in food industry history. The first flavored chips in the U.S., Barbecue, were being manufactured and sold by 1954.

If chips have been in your cupboard for a while, give them a sniff. If they smell rancid or off in any way it could be that the oil in the chips is now bad. Toss them out.

If they still smell appealing but taste a tad stale you may be able to save them by heating them. Spread evenly on a baking sheet, pop in the oven at 375 degrees for 10 minutes.

My favorite? Lays. Interestingly enough, Lays’ flavors offered in the U.S. are different from the flavors offered in other countries. Would you believe Marmite, Scottish Haggis, Australian BBQ Kangaroo, Red Caviar, Vegemite, Black Pepper and Ribeye? Chip lover that I am, most I’ve had to toss. I will admit, the Heinz Ketchup version I found in Europe were pretty darn good.

You can successfully freeze unopened chips for up to three months. Simply freeze in original packaging. When ready to use, thaw at room temperature for an hour and they’re good to go.

Lots of leftover chips? There are many ways to use them besides putting into or atop a casserole. Add to a sandwich for a little crunch, crumble on top of deviled eggs just before serving, crumble for breading chicken or fish, a layer added to a batch of brownies creates a salty sweet treat.

Oven Fried Onion Rings

1/4 cup flour

1/2 tsp. sea salt

1/4 tsp. black pepper

1/4 tsp. cayenne

1 cup sour cream

2 large eggs

1/2 cup flour

4 cups crushed potato chips

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2 large Maui onions

3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

Sea salt

Parchment paper

Combine first four ingredients. Set aside.

Combine sour cream, eggs and 1/2 cup flour. Whip until smooth.

Slice onions into 1/2 inch rings. Separate all rings.

Cover baking sheet with parchment.

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

Drizzle oil over parchment. Put into hot oven for 8 minutes or until oil is hot. Do not allow to smoke.

Using tongs, dip each ring into flour mixture, immerse in batter, coat in chips. Place rings in single layer on top of hot parchment. Bake 8 minutes. Turn rings and bake another 8 minutes.

Salt when still warm.

Onion rings will be crunchy outside and sweet and tender inside.

Serve with your favorite dipping sauces.

Mangia bene.

Diane De Filipi lives in the Napa Valley and leads cooking tours to Italy and Burgundy, France. Visit www.letsgocookitalian.com or www.ila-chateau.com/cook-italian for more information.

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