I love Melody McFarland. Melody's a regular commenter around here and a dear, dear friend of mine. Melody and I grew up in impossibly small towns in rural Pennsylvania though I never met her until around five years ago. When we met she lived in Japan and I lived in Florida. We bonded over our shared roots in the rolling farmland of Lancaster County, PA.
Well as fate would have it, Melody and her husband moved back to Lancaster last year after having spent the previous 20 years of their lives living all over the world. Hearing her tales of culture shock have been amusing but in re-experiencing my home town through her eyes I've come to see that it's really not such a bad place after all. After all, Melody's finding it to be a great place to launch her photography empire.
Lancaster's only 60 miles from Philadelphia but in a lot of ways is separated by time rather than distance. One of the apparent examples of this is the continued existence of mom and pop snack factories. It's an odd but remarkable thing to go down a snack aisle anywhere in eastern Pennsylvania and find that small, local brands of things like chips and pretzels outnumber the national brands.
Well in a gesture I'll remember for the rest of my life, Melody raided one of those snack aisles and sent me a box of mom and pop junk food yesterday.
I grew up in a household that had a chip can in it and potato chips were something that we had delivered the same way we had milk delivered. There was nothing unusual about it then but in looking back, it's unusual.
The chips we had delivered every week were Good's Red Label. My parents weren't natives and the Blue Label must have spooked them. I'll explain the difference in a moment.
So in the box of wonders Melody sent yesterday, there was a bag of Good's Red Label and a bag of Good's Blue Label. Blue Label Good's are cooked in lard, Reds are cooked in vegetable shortening. And now you know the difference between the two. As I was saying earlier, Lancaster County, PA is separated by time rather than distance from the rest of the Eastern Seaboard. There's no stigma to cooking with lard there.
Until you've eaten a potato chip that's been cooked in lard you are not allowed to judge. Lard gives them a crunch that's not possible to achieve in any other way. Trust me.
As if to drive home that point ever further, Melody sent me a bag of King's chips. King's are only available in the lard-cooked variety. Second only to my love of Good's was my love of King's. Melody has no idea what she's done for my soul here.
But the best was yet to come. Also in that magical box were two bags of Hammond Pretzels. People outside of Pennsylvania really don't eat pretzels, let alone handmade, hand-baked ones. If Lancaster, PA had an ounce of pretension, Hammond Pretzels would be sold at ten times their price and they'd be called artisanal pretzels. But there is no pretension, so they're just plain old Hammond's.
There are few things as sublime as a real pretzel and I am now in heaven. From the bottom of heart Melody, thank you.