SEB Mailbag: The divine “Uncle Ray’s Potato Chips.”

I got the following email from Mary today and thought I’d share it here:

Subject: gospel and chips

Ok, you’re from Michigan.  What’s the deal with these Uncle Ray’s Potato Chips?  I picked up a bag of cheesy poofs at the corner store, brand I hadn’t tried before.  Really cheap, figured I’d give ‘em a shot.  Opened the bag – pretty tasty.  Bag has a story printed on the back – chapter 7 of The Life and Times of Uncle Ray.  Cute story about how his grampa got him to not use tobacco by giving him a little chaw (he swallowed the juice, never tried tobacco again).  Underneath it all is a quote from Deuteronomy 11:19 about teaching your kids.  I’ve never heard of preaching and potato chips going together before.  Any clues?  They seem to be from out of De-troit.

Uncle Ray's Chips

I stopped for a moment and pondered if I had ever seen a bag of Uncle Ray’s Potato Chips and I can’t say that I ever have. Intrigued I did a Google search and came across the official Uncle Ray’s Potato Chips website. Lo and behold it is indeed a local company out of Detroit, Michigan that does print inspirational messages and Bible verses on their bags of chips. I boggled. I’ve never heard of them before, but they’ve been around since 1965 (technically – he didn’t use the brand name “Uncle Ray’s” until 1995). Here’s a snippet from their “Our Company” section:

Late one night in 1999, Ray woke up from a sound sleep. He had the urge to sit down at his kitchen table and write about his life’s memories. He began to write the first three chapters to the many stores you now read of the back of our products.

Ray has over 30 chapters of “The Life and Times of Uncle Ray”. He felt compelled to send a message to those eating his product. “If someone was ever contemplating suicide, drugs, stealing, or whatever life’s troubles bring you, I want you to know that you are not alone”. “Everyone has bad days and I want to be there with a message”

Potato chips as suicide prevention? Well, OK I suppose. I can see it now:

Person A: “Help! David’s threatening to jump from the top floor of the office building!”

Person B: “Quick! Give him this bag of Uncle Ray’s Cheesy Poofs and hope to hell he reads the back of it!”

But wait, it gets better. It seems Uncle Ray has been profiled by none other than the 700 Club in an article titled Uncle Ray’s Divine Revelation:

Ray spent two weeks in the hospital and received a blood transfusion. “When I got out of the hospital, I told Myrna, ‘There is a God. I don’t know who He is, or where He is, but I’ve got to find Him. I can’t live any longer without God.’

“Later on I realized that I had lost enough blood that I should have been dead. I was dead. I left my body. There was no question in my mind. The Lord saved my life, so He could save my soul.

“I finally felt a peace that I’ve never experienced in my life, and I found for the first time what I was seeking in my life, in alcohol, and anything else the world can offer and that’s His peace.”

And with that peace, Ray says that God began to work in other areas of his life. “The Lord gave me ideas and plans,” he says. “It was like a master business person talking to me. In my mind and heart, I knew I had the right answers. I went forward, and that year we made $85,000 profit.”

That’s what I’ve been doing wrong all this time. I need to nearly bleed to death from drinking too much and then I’ll finally earn the big bucks. Assuming God is kind enough to punt my soul back to earth with a master business plan.  But wait, it gets even better still:

He’s a Jenkins! In particular his name is Ray Jenkins and looking at his picture on the 700 Club site I’d have to say he could possibly be family. The problem with the Jenkins side of the family is that my father was considerably older than my mother. As a result, quite a few of my relatives on that side of the family are, naturally, considerably older than I am. Add to that the fact that I barely know a lot of people on that side of the family as my biological father has been dead since I was five and there’s every possibility I could be related to Uncle Ray.

But I doubt it. Although if he wants to write me into his will then I’d be more than happy to give my blessing to his chips in spite of the religious messages plastered on the packaging.

So, I hope that answers your question, Mary. Uncle Ray’s chips have those little stories and Bible quotes because Uncle Ray nearly bled to death from some unspecified alcohol related illness and found God who apparently wants him to spread His Word via the wondrously influential medium of chip packaging.

28 thoughts on “SEB Mailbag: The divine “Uncle Ray’s Potato Chips.”

  1. 2 things you need to know.

    1. Here in the UK ‘Poof’ is (derogatory) slang for a gay man (QV LJ in Oz ‘Poofter’). So seeing Cheesy Poof immediately conjoured up a picture of a kitsch gay man, possible from a not very good 70 sit-com (or that one from ‘Will and Grace’).  All tight white trousers and loud shirt. Got that image- good- hold it in your head. No imagine him quoting inspirational bits of the bible to you.  Now there’s an image you won’t be able to shift…

    2) Re: Jenkins. Traditional English Surname.  Reaserch has shown that all people born ‘Baker’ in the UK(assuming the mother doesn’t lie about the father) are related to 1 of 14 13th Cent families.  Given you are likely to have English roots for your surname, the same could be true for you!

    Oh, and chips are oblongs cut from potatoes- big fries to you. The word your looking for is ‘crisps’. (or probably not)

  2. This can’t be a coincidence: Uncle Ray’s Potato Chips reminded me of Dr. Bronner’s shampoo, which came in bottles printed all over with wacky Jewish-Christian messages.  I googled Dr. Bronner to see if he was still around, and lo and behold, not only is his company still going strong, but there was a quote floating at the top of his site written by one Heather Jenkins.  If that’s not proof of God’s plan, I don’t know what is.

    Les, you must wash your hair with Dr. Bronner’s shampoo while eating Uncle Ray’s Potato Chips.

  3. Quite the marketing idea, too.  You have to buy one of each type of chip to get the whole story, since there’s a different chapter on each flavor.  I wonder if they might come up with a bag-binder to sell on their website…maybe they could have you send proof of purchase from one of every flavor of their chips, and they’ll send you a binder to put all the bags in so you have the entire epic of Uncle Ray’s life to cherish for all time…

    Here’s another marketing idea for them: Jesus eating Uncle Ray’s Kosher Dill flavored chips (that is one of their flavors).  Come to save us from the less salty, less crunch chip.  Can I get an Amen?

  4. LH, I must admit while I was reading Les’ article I was thinking those ‘poofs’ wouldn’t sell too well in Oz – not that we’re particularly homophobic; it’s just that no one could order a pack without dying of larfter, so it wouldn’t be in the best interests of anyone’s health to even consider selling them let alone buying them.
    It’d be akin to the rampant telling of Monty Python‘s The Funniest Joke In The World.

  5. I love it when things are lost in translation. When I think of cheesy poofs all I get is south park. I also love when a show like south park influences contemporary linguistics.

  6. I understand that ‘Durex’ is the Aussie brand of sellotape (not condom as it is here). I pity the poor Aussie who walks into a UK shop and says “Roll of Durex, please”.

    Please let this be true!

  7. Please let this be true!

    Sorry, LH, that Durex joke’s been around for as long as I remember the fact ‘frenchies’ existed.
    Nowadays even my mind has replaced it with Sellotape; it’s the generic for all sticky tapes.
    But hang on to the joke by all means. smile

  8. This is almost a joke: here in Austria the brandname turned generic name for scotch tape is “Tixo”, which sounds like “dicks-oh”.  Well, it’s almost funny…

  9. Cut me some slack, Hussar.  If Les were to delete all the posts here that don’t meet those standards, there would be a lot less crap to wade through.  Wait a sec…

  10. ‘poofs’ wouldn’t sell too well in Oz

    I would like to draw to your attention the Faculty rules for the Philosophy Department, University of Woolamaloo.

    Rule 1- No pooftahs
    Rule 2- No member of the faculty is maltreat the Abbos in anyway whatsoever, if there is anyone watching
    Rule 3- No pooftahs
    Rule 4- I don’t want to catch anyone not drinking in their room after lights out
    Rule 5- No pooftahs
    Rule 6- There is no rule six
    Rule 7- No pooftahs

  11. Good one, LH.

    Abbos don’t like being called Abbos just like Pooftahs don’t like being called Pooftahs.

    Reminds me of something some reportedly saw on a toilet door somewhere in Oz: God hates Homos.
    Underneath someone else scrawled: But he rather likes Tabouli.

  12. If wounder if this “ray” has ever fired someone that wasn’t christian. He would be hard pressed to prove religion wasn’t involved in the decision. I wish I could get the cash from that class action.

  13. Hey guys, I happen to WORK at Uncle Ray’s in Detroit.

    Just to set a few things straight….

    1.) Our ‘poofs’ are called puffs.  Not that I really care what you call it, but just so people don’t think that we’re making some German derogitory comments.

    2.) I don’t think Ray’s ever fired a non-christian for that reason.  Yes, he is VERY religious, but he’s never asked me what my personal religious beliefs are. (And I work with him daily.  Yes, I do have to hear HIS religious beliefs… often)

    3.) Uncle Ray’s has a new (couple years now but…) CEO and we’ve gone ahead and removed the bible versus from the bags.  We feel that Uncle Ray’s stories can be enjoyed by both the religious and non-believers alike, and that it’s pleanty to get across the message.

    4.) We replaced the bible verse with something called ‘character traits’.  Go to.. I think it’s  They do some great things over there and we’re happy to put their message on the bags. (The messages are like little reminders about just how to live life good.  Having the right character to suceed)

    5.) Our cheese puffs are so good they MIGHT be a good suicide prevention tool!

    6.) Better Made… really?

    7.) We just launched a kettle line, we’ve only got three flavors right now.  Tell Granny that the Uncle… nawh, I’m just kidding.

    8.) As far as I know, Uncle Ray doesn’t have any immediate relative named Heather.  If she is some distant relative she doesn’t and has never worked here.

  14. Uncle Ray’s chips are some of the finest I’ve ever had. It’s too bad he puts so much focus on proselytizing. It’s an excellent chip that could win over a lot of consumers.

  15. Quite a lengthy discussion on something so benign. I’m not a religious fanatic, but surely I wouldn’t be put off from eating the contents of a bag that has something to say contrary to my beliefs. Too bad people didn’t spend as much time reading the nutri-facts as they did the story behind the chip.

    Get a life people, prophesying happens in every facet of life from politics to hair styles. If something like this tends to offend you, look for a more structured culture like North Korea.

    As far as not seeing product in the stores, not only do they have the uncle ray’s line of chips, they also private label for large grocery chains, so you’ve probably had without knowing at some point.

  16. As far as not seeing product in the stores, not only do they have the uncle ray’s line of chips, they also private label for large grocery chains, so you’ve probably had without knowing at some point.

    OMG! I’ve been proselytized by stealth!  cheese

  17. Thanks to a recent comment (above), I just re-read this thread and I can say that since I wrote this entry I have seen and tried Uncle Ray’s chips. They’re not my favorite brand, but they’re not bad at all.

    Not sure how long it was after I wrote this entry that I finally saw the brand someplace, but here in 2021 they’re still not carried by Meijer, Kroger’s, or even WalMart. Instead, it appears that locally they’re primarily sold at gas stations and mom and pop groceries/restaurants. I believe the vending machines here at work have a couple of bags every now and then. Looking on their website for locations, the one supermarket I’ve shopped at that carries them is Holiday Market in Canton. The vast majority of “stores” listed are gas stations. Interesting that they still haven’t been picked up by any of the major chains.

  18. Wow, it seems that there is a collection of adult sized toddlers who can’t seem to wrap their heads around a bag of potato chips.
    I get that many of you are jealous that the man behind the brand because not only does he own a successful business lucrative far more than your own I’m sure, but you’re equally outraged that he says what he thinks!

    The thing that makes is truly hysterical is that you are giving your opinion on him giving his opinion and you seem to indicate that your views are correct and his are not, which is a double standard. I’m not sure if y’all are even aware of how petty you sound.
    Uncle Ray, in the meantime, is praying for you all the way to the bank.

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