Fried pickles with ranch

The Zippy of 10/26, on the wisdom of potato-chip owls, especially those offering fried pickles with ranch:


(#1) Wise Potato Chips, a local company in my childhood days in eastern Pennsylvania, though now all over the place; also now with a product whose name is a little festival of morphological beheadings

Potato chip history. In my 5/10/17 posting “Regional potato chips”, featuring Wise, in Berwick PA, founded in 1921 by Earl Wise, who chose an owl as the company mascot because owls are reputed to be wise.

On the owlish wisdom thing, from Wikipedia:

In Greek mythology, a little owl (Athene noctua) traditionally represents or accompanies Athena, the virgin goddess of wisdom, or Minerva, her syncretic incarnation in Roman mythology. Because of such association, the bird — often referred to as the “owl of Athena” or the “owl of Minerva” — has been used as a symbol of knowledge, wisdom, perspicacity and erudition throughout the Western world. The reasons for the association of Athena [and then of the city of Athens] and the owl are uncertain.

And then Berwick, the cradle of the Wise owl. On a map:


(#2) Pretty much the domain of my life from 1940 (when I was born) to 62 (when I graduated from Princeton): Berwick is marked in red; Reading (the city of my young years) is roughly in the center of the map

Berwick lies on the North Branch of the Susquehanna River, in the anthracite coal country, to the northwest of Berks County (with Reading as its county seat). The river then flows south through Harrisburg (the state capital) and between York and Lancaster Counties on its way to the Chesapeake Bay. Reading lies in the rolling hills between the valley of the Susquehanna and the valley of the Delaware (on the map, the dotted line marking the boundary between Pennsylvania and New Jersey). (Still further to the east on the map, the valley of the Hudson River, separating Jersey City from New York City.)

A map of the eastern section of Pennsylvania’s counties, showing Berks in relation to Columbia:


(#3) The distances are not great: Reading to Allentown, 30 mi. (38 by car); Reading to Harrisburg, 51 (62 by car); Reading to Berwick 52 (68 by car); Reading to Philadelphia, 48 (63 by car)

And a map showing the Susquehanna watershed:


(#4) Compare with the two previous maps (Berks is the diamond-shaped county)

Rivers are historically (economically, commercially, and socioculturally) important in this part of the world, as are railroads, and Reading had them both: the Schuylkill River that flows through Reading empties into the Delaware; and then there’s the Reading Railroad.

But enough of this geographical interlude; let us return to our potato chips.

Wise and Lay’s. I’ve searched the Wise Snacks homepage, looking for fried pickles with ranch, but the closest thing I could find was dill pickle Ridgies — no fried pickle flavor or ranch flavor, much less the combination. On the other hand, the Wise company’s really huge competitor, Frito Lay (with by far the largest potato chip sales in the US), revels in fried pickle with ranch, in an Lay’s-brand ad campaign with smiling faces (a tie-in with a campaign in support of the medical non-profit Operation Smile, also suggesting that the chips will put a smile on your face) and a photo of some fried pickles with accompanying ranch dressing. Two examples:

(#5)

(#6)

The foods. First, the fried pickles. From Wikipedia:

Fried pickles are a snack food found commonly in the Southern U.S.. They are made by deep-frying sliced battered dill pickles.

Fried pickles first appeared on the American culinary scene in the early 1960s. The first known printed fried pickle recipe was in the Oakland Tribune on November 19, 1962, for “French Fried Pickles,” which called for using sweet pickle slices and pancake mix.

Fried dill pickles were popularized by Bernell “Fatman” Austin in 1963 at the Duchess Drive In located in Atkins, Arkansas.

… Fried pickles are served at food festivals and menus of individual and chain restaurants throughout the United States and elsewhere. They can be eaten as an appetizer or as an accompaniment to other dishes. Fried pickles are frequently served with a ranch dressing or other creamy sauce for dipping.

And the dressing / dipping sauce, also from Wikipedia:

Ranch dressing is a type of salad dressing made of some combination of buttermilk, salt, garlic, onion, mustard, herbs (commonly chives, parsley, and dill), and spices (commonly black pepper, paprika, and ground mustard seed), mixed into a sauce based on mayonnaise, or another oil emulsion. … Ranch dressing has been the best-selling salad dressing in the United States since 1992, when it overtook Italian dressing. It is also popular in the US as a dip and flavoring for chips and other foods. In 2017, forty percent of Americans named ranch as their favorite dressing.

History: In the early 1950s, plumber Steve Henson developed what is now known as ranch dressing while working as a contractor for three years in the remote Alaskan bush. In 1954, he and his wife Gayle opened Hidden Valley Ranch, a dude ranch at the former Sweetwater Ranch on San Marcos Pass in Santa Barbara County, California, where they served it to customers. It became popular, and they began selling it in packages for customers to take home, both as a finished product and as packets of seasoning to be mixed with mayonnaise and buttermilk. As demand grew, they incorporated Hidden Valley Ranch Food Products, Inc., and opened a factory to manufacture it in larger volumes, which they first distributed to supermarkets in the Southwest, and eventually, nationwide. [There followed legal wrangling over the use of the names ranch and ranch style.]

… Popularity: Ranch dressing is common in the United States as a dipping sauce for broccoli, carrots and celery as well as a dip for chips and “bar foods” such as french fries and chicken wings. It is also a common dipping sauce for fried foods such as fried mushrooms, fried zucchini, fried pickles, jalapeno poppers, onion rings, chicken fingers, and hushpuppies. In addition, ranch dressing is used on pizza, pickles, baked potatoes, wraps, tacos, pretzels, and hamburgers.

The Betty Crocker on-line site has a fairly typical recipe for homemade versions of the two components of FPwR. For the fried pickles: dill pickle slices dipped in buttermilk and red pepper sauce; then coated with a mixture of flour, yellow cornmeal, and Cajun seasoning; and fried in vegetable oil.

The FPwR name. The Wise owl asks (in standard spelling):

Have you tried the fried pickles with ranch?

Which is actually a question about potato chips, not about fried pickles; fried pickles with ranch is short for

[ fried pickles with ranch ] [ potato chips ]

(a species + genus N + N compound). And inside this, with ranch isn’t a reference to some kind of ranch, or to ranches considered as a genus, but to a kind of dressing; ranch is short for ranch dressing (again, a species + genus N + N compound). So the whole thing is notionally:

[ [ fried pickles ] [ with [ ranch dressing ] ] ] [ potato chips ]

The relationship of the longer of such a nominal to its abbreviated version (in which the modifier element stands for the modifier + head combination) I have called beheading; the image is that of the head element being removed, leaving only the modifier as a new lexical item with the semantics and morphosyntax of the full combination. There’s a Page on this blog with links to my postings on the phenomenon. FPwR is then a beheading with a beheading inside it. A little festival of beheading.

4 Responses to “Fried pickles with ranch”

  1. Robert Coren Says:

    Wise Potato Chips, a local company in my childhood days in eastern Pennsylvania

    As may be, but my childhood is not that much later than yours, and I remember Wise potato chips being a common brand in New York City at that time.

    The mention of the association between owls and Athena reminds me of my delight in discovering that my (now rather ancient) Cassell’s German-English dictionary gives Eulen nach Athens tragen (“Carry owls to Athens”) as the equivalent of “carry coals to Newcastle”.

    • arnold zwicky Says:

      In its original target area, Wise (like some other pretzel and potato chip companies) made regular home deliveries of big tins of potato chips. But fairly early on, they expanded the range of stores they supplied, to include the cities of Philadelphia and New York, and then continued as a mostly middle-Atlantic supplier for some years.

  2. [BLOG] Some Wednesday links | A Bit More Detail Says:

    […] Zwicky considers the many implications of fried pickles with ranch […]

  3. Mark Fedorco Says:

    I am from Berwick. I live in NYC now for more years than I lived in Berwick. Knew many who worked at the Wise plant and appreciated the piece.

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