“Miss Manners does not mind explaining the finer points of gracious living, but she feels that anyone without the sense to pick up a potato chip and stuff it in their face should probably not be running around loose on the streets.” ~ Judith Martin, a.k.a. Miss Manners


I have this memory of being at my friend Angie's house in North Carolina in 1973 and seeing her always-hungry little brother go into the kitchen for a snack one day after school. Y'all, the boy came out of the kitchen holding a stick of butter and taking a huge bite of it! There were a lot of "ewwwww" noises from his sister and me, as you can imagine. He was a cute little blonde-headed preschooler, and he was a picky eater, believe it or not. He only liked cheese sandwiches, butter, cookies and chips.


We had a neighborhood Charles Chips man at that time. Do you remember Charles Chips? They came in a light yellow metal tin speckled with brown spots. The delivery man would drive his truck into neighborhoods all over town, and our moms would sometimes buy one of his big cans of crispy potato chips to keep in the kitchen to serve with sandwiches for the next week or two.


Angie's brother, thankfully, did like the chips the man delivered, so he'd put down the butter he'd swiped from his mom's kitchen to have some of those crispy chips instead. That gave Angie the opportunity to sneak the remains of the stick of butter and hide it from him so he wouldn't eat any more of it. I would certainly think chips would be a preferable snack to butter, but the mind of a picky 4 year old can really be hard to comprehend. (I do hope his eating habits have improved now that he’s in his forties!)


Our mothers would pay the Charlie Chips man, as they called him, about $1.20 for the one-pound tin of chips, and he would come back around in two weeks to trade out the empty can for another one that was full of fresh, light, crispy chips that were fried in cottonseed oil. The company says they still use the same recipe, though they now are only available online and they’re $26.99 as opposed to the $1.20 they were decades ago. The company has changed hands four times since its launch in 1942, but I like to think they would still taste as good today if I ordered some.


Since the Charlie Chips man isn’t going to be driving down our street to make deliveries anymore, making chips from scratch can be a fun, nostalgic alternative. If you have never tried your hand at making your own potato chips, here’s a recipe that you might like! You can even buy cottonseed oil at most grocery stores, if you want to commit to creating your own realistic version of Charles Chips. Email me at steph@whatsouthernfolkseat.com to let me know how they turn out for you.


Skillet potato chips


Ingredients


7 unpeeled medium potatoes (about 2 pounds)


2 quarts ice water


5 teaspoons salt


1-1/2 teaspoons pepper


Oil for deep frying


Directions


1. Using a vegetable peeler or metal cheese slicer, cut potatoes into very thin slices. Place in a large bowl; add ice water and salt. Soak for 30 minutes.


2. Drain potatoes; place on paper towels and pat dry.


3. In a cast-iron or other heavy skillet, heat 1-1/2 inches of oil to 375. Fry potatoes in batches until golden brown, 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently.


4. Remove with a slotted spoon; drain on paper towels. Immediately sprinkle with salt. Store in an airtight container (like a vintage Charles Chips tin, perhaps?)


Enjoy!


Stephanie Hill-Frazier is a writer, food blogger and regional television chef, whose on-air nickname is “Mama Steph”. She grew up in Gulf County, on St. Joe Beach, a place she will forever call home.


She is married and has three young adult sons who are significantly taller than she is. You can find more of her recipes at WhatSouthernFolksEat.com or contact her at steph@whatsouthernfolkseat.com.