Behold … The Potato Chip

A potato chip or crisp is a thin slice of potato, deep fried or baked until crisp. Potato chips serve as an appetizer, side dish, or snack. Commercial varieties are packaged for sale, usually in bags, sometimes in tubes. The simplest chips of this kind are just cooked and salted, but the chip manufacturers can add a wide variety of seasonings (mostly made using herbs, spices, and various cheeses. Chips are a very important part of the snack food market in English-speaking countries and many other Western nations.

There is little consistency in the English speaking world for names of fried potato cuttings. North American English uses “chips” for the above mentioned dish – this term is also used in continental Europe – and sometimes ‘crisps’ for the same made from batter, and ‘French fries’ for the hot crispy batons with a soft core. In the United Kingdom and Ireland, ‘crisps’ are the brittle slices eaten at room temperature and ‘chips’ refer to that hot dish (as in “fish & chips”). In Australia, New Zealand and some parts of South Africa, both forms of potato product are simply known as ‘chips’, as are the larger “home-style” potato chips. Sometimes the distinction is made between “hot” chips (French fried potatoes) or “packet” chips or “tube” chips.

Non-potato based chips also exist. Kumara (sweet potato) chips are eaten in New Zealand and Japan; parsnip crisps are available in the United Kingdom. There are also regional variations. For example, in parts of the North of England, fried sliced potatoes are sometimes called (“flakies”). India is famous for a large number of localized chips shops, selling not only potato chips but also other varieties such as plantain chips, yam chips and even carrot chips.

It is believed that the original potato chip recipe was created by Native American/African American chef George Crum, at Moon’s Lake House near Saratoga Springs, New York, on August 24, 1853. Crum decided to slice the potatoes so thin that they couldn’t be eaten with a fork, nor fried normally in a pan, so he decided to stir-fry the potato slices. These new fangled chips became a regular item on the lodge’s menu under the name “Saratoga Chips.” They soon became popular throughout New York and New England. Eventually, potato chips spread beyond chef-cooked restaurant fare and began to be mass produced for home consumption.

Before the airtight sealed bag or the chips tube was developed, chips were stored in barrels or tins. The chips at the bottom were often stale and damp. Then Laura Scudder invented the bag by ironing together two pieces of waxed paper, thereby creating an airtight seal and keeping the chips fresh until opened. In 1934 Akron, Ohio, potato chip maker K.T. Salem was the first to distribute chips in glassine waxed paper bags. Today, chips are packaged in plastic bags, with nitrogen gas blown in prior to sealing to lengthen shelf life, and provide protection against crushing. No matter what, no matter when, you still can’t eat just one.

Chiaroscuro (Say What?)

Chiaroscuro, an Italian word for “clear–dark”, is a term in art for a contrast between light and dark. The term is usually applied to bold contrasts affecting a whole composition, but is also more technically used by artists and art historians for the use of effects representing contrasts of light, not necessarily strong, to achieve a sense of volume in modelling three-dimensional objects such as the human body. The term is now also used in describing similar effects in the lighting of cinema and photography.

Rembrandt “The Blinding of Samson”

Chiaroscuro is generally only remarked upon when it is a particularly prominent feature of the work, usually when the artist is using extreme contrasts of light and shade. The term is less often used of art after the late nineteenth century, although the Expressionist and other modern movements make great use of the effect. Classical voice instructors describe the optimal balance of clearness and darkness in the singing voice tone as chiaroscuro: a combination of brightness and “ping” (brilliance and resonance) with warmth and depth.

Vermeer “The Geographer”

When The Medium Is More Than The Message

Concerning art, when is the medium more valuable than the message? In this case, the medium (bronze) seems to have gained much more value lately than the visions or messages of sculptors. For centuries, sculptors have used bronze as one of their preferred mediums for public and private statues and sculptures. But, the central ingredient in bronze is copper – which is a very valuable commodity now. Three years ago the price of copper was $1.50 per pound; now, the cost of copper has reached $4.00 per pound. This makes bronze statues and sculptures a very tempting target for thieves who sell the stolen copper for its scrap value. Once content with just stealing copper wiring, bronze manhole covers and copper pipes, today’s copper thief will steal works of art weighing hundreds of pounds and positioned in public spaces – sometimes in broad daylight.

The city of Brea, California in Orange County has encountered this new brazen type of theft in the worst way. Brea has experienced rapid growth in recent years which has lead to a proliferation of public art in their city. The city of Brea has 144 public sculptures in the city, 50 of which are bronze. Thieves have targeted Brea because of its large population of bronze sculptures and statues located in the city. After having several pieces of bronze art stolen by copper thieves, city officials are now having to come to grips with their new problem.

Artists, many of whom have had their own supplies of bronze stolen, are shying away from the use of bronze in the commission of their works. Public art buyers are seeking pieces that do not contain bronze so their clients won’t have to use extreme measures to protect their purchases. Some custodians of these public pieces of art have had to resort to protecting the sculptures with cacti barriers, shrub barriers, high-tech security systems, hidden cameras and various types of GPS devices.