Eamon and Sakura — our son and his wife — are staying with us for a few weeks in transit from their two-year stay in Japan to their permanent digs over in San Francisco. They went shopping the other day at the Tokyo Fish Market here in Berkeley. Among other things they brought back from their expedition: an 80-gram bag of Calbee Seaweed & Salt potato chips (“Every time fresh Calbee Potato Chips now have the irresistible full flavor of Seaweed and Salt,” the package says. “Try it and add to your favorite shopping list today”). Calbee’s a Japanese snack food firm that the company history says started in Hiroshima after the war. In 1970, it opened up Calbee America and started marketing its products here; mostly, I imagine, in ethnic food stores like the Tokyo Fish Market.
For the record: The chips are great. Light. Not too greasy or salty. The seaweed flavor: subtle. Give me more than 80 grams next time.
But the arresting part of the Calbee chips experience for me: The appearance on their label of a cartoon character wearing a sash labeled “Potato.” He’s got an “uh-oh!” sort of expression on his face that seems less confident than you might wish for from a brand spokesman; he bears a cousin-ish relationship to Mr. Peanut, but without the monocular elegance or cane-inspired suggestion of swagger.
I’ve given this way too much thought.
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