Nov 27, 2020

Total Potato Chip Recall—and Going Dutch for Thanksgiving

A new study takes pains to reveal the unnecessary

By Ed Goldman

As we continue our recovery from Thanksgiving—provided you’re not prolonging the magic by making turkey pâté, mashed-potato sandwiches, stuffing-and-eggs, seafoam Jell-O frittatas and cranberry-sauce smoothies—I’d like to share a tummy-related discovery made by our friends in the Netherlands.

The Dutch scientific community’s latest breakthrough: Through exhaustive research, it found that most of us, after attending a buffet, would be better able to recall where the table with the potato chips was than the one with the healthful snacks. To summarize, we may be drawn more to salt, starch, gluten, calories, and dips made with onion soup and sour cream, than to cucumbers, baby carrots, water chestnuts, bamboo shoots and vegan hummus topping.   

Hello, Mr. Chips

Even the researchers were vague about how this finding benefits humanity. Maybe the Dutch science community spent a few too many happy hours guzzling Advocaat, an eggnog-ish liquor that apparently inspires unintended satire to flourish in academia.

According to a story in the New York Times, “Dutch scientists set up an experiment where people walked around a room, guided by arrows on the floor. They moved from table to table on which eight foods were placed: caramel cookies, apples, chocolate, tomatoes, melons, peanuts, potato chips and cucumbers.

“They were instructed to either smell or taste the foods and to rate them on likability and familiarity. But they were not told the real purpose of the experiment: to determine how well they could remember where the foods were located in the room.”

And why, I asked myself, would that be significant? Will this someday be used to train real estate agents on how to stress “location, location, location,” the longtime mantra of success in selling homes? 

Or was there a dystopian reason underlying the experiment? Did someone envision a post-apocalyptic world, similar to that depicted in the Mad Max movies, with the scarcity of gasoline and STP being replaced by a paucity and subsequent obsession with noshes? Is there a series of cautionary Mad Snax movies currently being shot in New Zealand? I hear that Mel Gibson is available, and appropriately chunky enough, to star as Mad Snax. (To be fair, I’m probably as chunky as Mel but I haven’t piloted a motorcycle in decades—and with a name like Goldman, I can’t spew Mel’s antisemitic gibberish convincingly.)

To justify the grant she probably received to conduct this rather useless report, unless it was just part of the curriculum at Wageningen University & Research in the Netherlands—which, for all I know, has a School of Appetizer Studies (within its College of Canapés)—the main author of the report had this to say:

Push Pin Travel Maps

“Our results seem to suggest that human minds are adapted to finding energy-rich food in an efficient way,” said Rachelle de Vries, who’s a doctoral candidate at Wageningen U. “This may have implications for how we navigate our modern food environment.”

Uh-huh. One closing question:

Is it really this easy to get into the doctoral program at Wageningen University & Research in the Netherlands? I have all sorts of proposals for similarly dubious research, like:

  1. Why does a mirror reverse me from left to right but not from top to bottom? I admit to having stolen that from an episode of “My Three Sons.”
  2. Where does my lap go when I stand up? (And I stole this from an annoying friend of my parents when I was a kid. My brothers and I used to call him Uncle Stupid when he wasn’t within earshot.)
  3. Would this be a good tourism motto for the Dutch? “I’ve Always Loved Holland. Well, Wooden Shoe?”

Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).