A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to go to Virginia to see my cousin Kristina get married. My auntie and the family have lived in Virginia for close to thirty years and they always said “you need to come and visit”. My mom and sister have been there many times over the years but I have not, and it was nothing personal, I just never made a chance to go.
I was now in Chesterfield County and one thing my auntie always talked about was going to a convenience store called Wawa. She would tell me it has everything you needed and it’s better than 7-Eleven. I grew up with my share of corner stores and then when 7-Eleven first opened in Honolulu, it blew us away. Now I was going to witness this “better than 7-Eleven store” but can it be? When I got there, I said to myself “I am in front of Wawa.” The first thing I looked for when I walked in was snacks and I spotted Utz but I could not remember why I wanted to get an Utz. I had a brain fart, I thought “what was it that these chips are made in?” so I bought a regular pack of chips, it said cottonseed and I bought a bag. Was it this? It tasted okay to me, no big deal. The second time I went to Wawa, I knew it had to deal with a different variety of Utz and there were many flavors but there it was: Grandma Utz’s. I immediately looked in the ingredients and saw what I was looking for: these chips are cooked in lard.
Wawa sold the Grandma Utz’s chips in both snack size (2 ounces or so) and a big bag so I went for the snack size first. After all these years after reading about it online, I was going to have my first manteca chips and I will say: these are damn good. It tastes different than normal potato chips and due to it being cooked in lard, it definitely has a slightly different mouth feel. To be honest, the first thing it reminded me of was a brand of potato chips from Hawai’i called Kitch’n Cook’d, made on Maui except this case, the bag was a solid color and not clear, which has been said to weaken the chips if it stays out on the racks too long. Utz’s doesn’t feel like, I don’t know, Olestra or something? I just knew it tasted different than what I was used to but it was a good “different”. I bought a bigger bag to take home and when they were done, I wished I had bought more. Fortunately I can if I want, since those chips are available online, which I knew but I tend to prefer finding them somewhere and buying it then and there.
I am a huge fan of plain potato chips but for Grandma Utz’s, they also came in BBQ. There was also a limited edition “bacon horseradish” flavor but not sure if this will make a comeback or if it is meant for a certain part of the year. I’m aware there are a few other brands that also make lard potato chips, including Dieffenbach’s, Gibble’s, Zerbe’s, and Good’s, and perhaps one day I’ll try each one as well. One website claims some companies actually shy away from saying they make their chips with lard, a few saying they are either cooked in “shortening” or are made “homestyle” but fortunately you can find out how they are really made just by doing a search online. As for Utz, I’m glad they are not normally available on the west coast but if one has PayPal, you can obtain anything you want, including Grandma Utz’s. They also make a 15 ounce bag, which I think would be very dangerous to have in any sitting.