This article was originally published in the August 1989 issue of CNJM FORVM


There is an addiction far worse than nicotine, opiates, cocaine, or alcohol. Much worse than love. Even worse than chocolate.

Potato chips with sour cream and onion dip.

Chip 'n' dip is a potent, heavenly, lethal, and highly addictive combination. Dieters who have successfully resisted the lure of chocolate cake, pizza, and French fries have succumbed to the wiles of this seemingly innocuous snack, only to be ultimately driven to the utter depths of despair, madness, depravity, and sometimes even suicide.

The appeal of this dietary heaven and hell lies in the fact that there is absolutely nothing nutritionally redeeming about it. Chip 'n' dip is drenched in fat, sodium, cholesterol, and calories. It's the edible equivalent of soap operas, trashy novels, and porno flicks.

The aphrodisiac qualities of chip 'n' dip have never been proven, but the salty, slightly greasy crispness of the chip, mingled with the velvety smoothness of the sour cream and the savory richness of the onion soup mix, produces a sublime and almost erotic eating experience. The dip is just as good with pretzels and corn chips. Teamed with raw vegetables or a steaming baked potato, it becomes an artful blending of virtue and vice.

The Philistines among us substitute plain nonfat yogurt for the sour cream and serve it with raw vegetables. It really isn't bad, but only real sour cream and potato chips can satisfy the deep, lustful cravings of the hardcore chip 'n' dip addict, especially the ridged chips that can scoop up a healthy dollop of dip without breaking. Only real chips and real sour cream can deliver that rush of euphoria to the brain, calories to the waistline, and cholesterol to the arteries.

Chip 'n' dip was spawned in the 50s, the wondrous decade that gave us the hula hoop, the Edsel, and Richard M. Nixon. The credit (or blame) for the concoction lies with the Lipton Company, who first printed the recipe on the back of its onion soup mix packages in 1954 as "California dip." Lipton Onion Soup Mix was the catalyst that transformed two disparate food items, American potato chips and eastern European sour cream, into suburban ambrosia.

Chip 'n' dip is a soothing reminder of those sweet, innocent times. It calls to mind sock hops and poodle skirts, pony tails and duck tails, "I Love Lucy" and cars with tail fins, a time when the future looked as bright as the chrome on a '57 Chevy.

Attempting to cash in on our craving for chip 'n' dip, potato chip makers offer sour cream and onion flavored chips. It's like substituting skim milk for a banana split. The act of scooping up the dip and risking dripping it on the floor or on your clothes adds a certain elan. There are also ready made dips and they're almost as good as the home-made variety -- almost. There's something deeply satisfying about mixing the rich brown onion soup mix into the smooth sour cream and watching it turn into nutritional nirvana studded with tender onion bits and covered with a sprinkling of paprika or finely chopped parsley.

No marketing survey has even been done to determine how much onion soup mix is used to make sour cream onion dip, but it's got to be around 75%. Most of the remainder is mixed in with pot roast gravy or meat loaf. Hardly any of it is actually used for onion soup.

Finally, does anyone remember seeing dip left over in the bowl at the end of a party? Of course not. The dip bowl is always wiped clean long before the party ends. Carrot sticks are ideal for scraping out that last bit of dip. Perhaps God created carrots just for that purpose.

Tastes and styles in food change more quickly than Lady Gaga's hair color. But despite today's barrage of nutritionally correct, fat-free, sugar-free, sodium-free, cholesterol-free, and flavor-free pseudo-foods, chip 'n' dip will forever remain a classic, firmly entrenched in the American Junk Food Hall of Fame.

Graphics courtesy of