Alex Woodward wrote a nice tribute (below) to Ron Zappe, creator of Zapp's chips, who died today. Everyone had a favorite flavor (mine was the limited-edition "Bee-Licious Honey Mustard"), but I had one of those transcendental post-Katrina moments over, of all things, Zapp's.
I was in Portland, Ore., and missing New Orleans something fierce one night when I met up with a friend for dinner -- a Portlander whose family was from Louisiana (last name: Boudreaux). We ended up going to one of Portland's many good taprooms. Though that city has many virtues, good restaurant service is not among them, but we had a very nice server who was both competent and warm in that distinctly New Orleanian way.
When she delivered my sandwich, she asked if there was anything else I wanted, and I told her, "May I have some pickle chips, please?"
"Pickle chips?" She looked puzzled. "We don't have those."
A restaurant that didn't have pickle chips? "You don't have slices of dill pickle for my sandwich?" I asked.
"Oh! Sure!" she said, turning away. And then I thought I heard her say: "I thought you meant Zapp's."
"Are you from New Orleans?" I said.
She was. And she was as homesick as I was. She found someone to take her tables for a few minutes and came over to sit with me and Boudreaux. It turned out she had managed an art gallery in the Warehouse District before Katrina and had ended up in Portland, where she couldn't find work and ended up waiting tables ... and, more than anything, she and her boyfriend wanted to come home.
I wish I could remember her name. More than that, I hope she did come home. But it was an evening that made an indelible impression on me; 2000 miles from home, two strangers bonded, however briefly, over a random mention of Zapp's Cajun Dill Pickle chips.
So long, Ron Zappe -- and thanks for all the chips.