March 2017: Nearly every morning I drive or walk by a non-descript office building on my way to (ironically) Lifestyle Fitness Center off Route One in Scarborough. If I close my eyes as I pass I can almost smell the intoxicating aroma of Maine potatoes frying. This is the former site of the iconic Humpty Dumpty snack foods factory.
A while back our Real Italians Are Only Found in Maine blog post elicited many feelings. One commenter posted: “That sandwich would go well with a dill pickle and some Cape Cod chips.”
No hard feelings, but one either gets it or one does not. First, the iconic Maine Italian sandwich comes adorned (if made properly) with super sour pickles on top. And there is only one appropriate brand of chip on the side: Humpty Dumpty!
Humpty Dumpty Potato Chip Company, Inc. was founded in 1947 by George Robinson and Norman Cole and produced its chips on Route One in Scarborough until the 80’s. The brand became iconic for its elaborate character logo and home delivery in its signature metal barrels which have now become prized antique collector items.
The company was also known for its signature eccentric flavors like Dill Pickle, Ketchup, and Sour Cream n’ Clam, along with more traditional varieties. And for generations Humpty Dumpty has provided the perfect complement to the Maine delicacy that is the “Italian.”
Like many small brands Humpty Dumpty was gobbled up by a series of corporate entities. Eventually production was move to (ugh) Canada.
The products have continued to be sold in Maine and the original flavors seem to remain authentic, but it’s hard to remember. And the combinations have gone from quirky and sublime to borderline ridiculous. Newer variations include Roast Chicken, Ballpark Frank, and Buffalo Wings & Blue Cheese.
Here is your guide to a genuine Maine experience: Grab an Italian Sandwich as close to authentic as possible (see Real Italians Are Only Found in Maine) and a bag of Humpty Dumpty Sour Cream n’ Clam chips and head to Pine Point Beach (or beach of your choice).
Unwrap the sandwich, spread out the wax paper and dump some of the chips alongside. By this time the oil that has been drizzled on top will have mixed with some of the juice from the tomatoes and created some pink mushy edges to the roll, a key element.
The clam essence of the chips will meld perfectly with the wafting salt air to complement the Italian’s soft/crunchy textural contrast and its unique savory/sweet/sour/ bitter (bitter from the oil cured olives) flavor combination. A minuscule accidental sprinkling of sandy beach grit only enhances the experience.