Store window displays rarely get me inside a store, though when executed with the right dose of humor or taste I can appreciate them on an aesthetic level. I’m also consciously avoiding stores, or anywhere I could potentially spend money, because I have none. The other day, though, I lifted this self-imposed ban when I wandered past the AmazingSavings on the corner of Broadway and Rutledge in Williamsburg. Stacked in neat disarray in the window were piles of appliances, running the gamut of functionality: Food processors (could come in handy), infrared toasters (!), and a ridiculous electronic pizza oven that I seriously doubt could ever yield any decent pizza. The slogan scrawled along the windows promised “amazing” prices. With a birthday and a new apartment, I justified my visit. The store is typical of those in the area, part of a wonderful and anachronistic vortex of stores that remain untouched by the tornados of mall-ification and the shackles of national chains. Here, under the shadow of Broadway’s elevated train, the small guys do more than just survive — they seem to thrive!
AmazingSavings. is filled with useful and useless garbage. While considering the speed toaster and the slow cooker — who sets the pace? — I was distracted by a bag of potato chips. It was Passover, and as the store sits on the edge of the neighborhood’s Hasidic section, some kosher food items had made it to the shelves. Surprised and maybe with an inappropriate delight, I learned with a glance that Manischewitz, that great purveyor of matzah and sweet wine, also makes a kosher potato chip!! Being an amateur chip enthusiast, and having exhausted most familiar brands in the US, I was excited but skeptical. Too often, I’ve come across what appears to be an unfamiliar brand of chip only to learn that they have simply been purchased from another chip company and re-branded. Places like Trader Joe’s or Target are just two of the more common practitioners of this deception, which has been happening forever. Unfortunately, it’s the reality of being a smaller chip company. In order to survive at all, they need to sell to corporations, which have the capacity to sell their chip at a lower price, while the little guy receives none of the reward of name or brand recognition. I have a hard time believing that Manischewitz actually owns potato chip producing equipment and thus I’m left to wonder how they ensure that the chips are kosher and what exactly the Torah says about the production of potato chips. I bet nothing! Research reveals that Manischewitz makes both a salted and unsalted kosher chip, though at AmazingSavings that day only the latter was found. Regardless of my skepticism, what lay before me was indisputable — a tastefully packaged, salt free chip! I’m aware that there is no scarcity of “no salt added” potato chips — Utz, for one, makes them — but, still, I’m always excited by brevity in an ingredient list: potatoes and cottonseed oil!
After the chip discovery I was helpless to AmazingSavings’s powers, soon finding myself in the checkout line with the chips, red electrical tape (69 cents!), socks, and headphones. I took a cell phone pic of the fantastic Manischewitz chip bag for a buddy of mine who I knew would get a kick out of it. The woman at the register looked at me beaming and broadly exclaimed, “it’s AMAZING!” before laughing hysterically. I don’t know if it was genuine, something she gets paid to say, or if she was making fun, but regardless, I agreed. Somehow, I resisted opening the chips as I went home. I realized, probably not as quickly as I should have, that I was leaving to see my parents in Connecticut the next day, and that my mother is currently on a strict low-sodium diet because of her heart. Having indulged all her life in generous salting and especially in butter and in bacon fat, she’s had a hard time with the discipline. I decided I would bring the potato chips to her as a treat.
The next day, I arrived late in the afternoon to meet my parents who were returning from a wake. My mother was hungry — like me, she always is. We ceremoniously — is there any other way? — ripped open the bag of unsalted chips and dug in. The chips were great! I know that cottonseed oil is one of the cheapest and least healthy of all the chip cooking oils – but here, without the addition of salt, the potatoes’ inherent flavors really came through. There was little to worry about getting on your fingers, and you could eat several without feeling like you’d clogged an artery. Having a family member with some heart trouble makes one all too aware of blood, a heartbeat, and exactly how the food you put into your body will affect it. While I wouldn’t exactly recommend unsalted potato chips as a heart healthy alternative, I was glad that my trip into AmazingSavings and the chips its bore went to a good cause, rather than simply into my mouth, like so many frivolous chips before them.