05 August 2010
In Defense of the Salted Potato Chip
Mr. Jovanka and myself have friends who are a couple like we are and lots of times we go over to their house to hang out or play cards. We always go over to their house because our house has 10 cats in it and we are worried about possible smells that we might not be sensitive to. We are nothing if not considerate. So anyway, we've been going over to their place for about the past 4 years now and we are only just now breaking them into buying salted potato chips instead of the funky flavors. The last time we went over to their house all they had on offer were some sort of barbecued chips and spicy Thai prawn or something. I took matters into my own hands and did this very clever ruse where I asked loudly and obviously where the nearest potato chip shop was then I made a show of asking specific directions and telling people to just wait a while because I might get lost. I even stood up and started patting all my pockets and moving towards the door. Finally Nico offered to just take his bike to go get the salted chips himself which had been my intention all along (I'm very good at this stuff).
Is it too much to ask that people should have simple salted snacks on hand? We don't think so. Besides, we have a medical excuse since we are vegans and the funky flavored ones always have some sort of dairy product/beef extract/dung in them.
I have waged a lifetime war against the freaks of this world who want to desecrate the taste of potatoes with their nasty artificial flavorings. When I was a kid growing up in Los Angeles, it was fairly simple: There were salted or Barbecue flavor. When, also as a kid, I lived in London, it was slightly more complex with the addition of cheese & onion and salt & vinegar flavors, but still you knew where you stood. Their two extra flavors were based on established pub food. It was all very Olde Worlde. I mean they even called salted crisps, "Ready Salted" as they had only recently apparently taken on the technology of pre-salting the crisps. Before that crisps came unsalted with a salt packet inside. I always imagined British parents guilting their children with, "Oh you kids these days don't know how easy you've got it. Why when we were your age, we had to reach our hands into the packet, look for the salt and do the work ourselves. We didn't have time for fun and games. We were too busy doing our own food preparation. You kids live like royalty!"
Fast forward to today and the Brits love the whole flavoured crisp thing. In fact they've taken the concept and run with it to the point where you're hard pressed to find plain crisps nowadays. Here are some of the flavours you'll find on offer if you innocently ask for a packet of crisps at any pub in England:
"Ready Salted" - of course the big selling point here being that they have been pre-salted for your convenience. Odd though how none of the other flavours will be listed as "Ready __________". I guess putting salt on things requires an extra effort.
"Salt & Vinegar" - the one flavour that I can at least understand. Chips (a.k.a. "fries") are often served with vinegar and salt in the UK and it is awfully good, so it would stand to reason that the flavoring would translate to a different form of potato. It doesn't. They're vile.
"Marmite" - OK. Marmite is an acquired taste, the enjoyment of which is already conditional: It's best served on toast (not bread, toast) for instance, and it tastes awful unless you combine it with margarine (at which point it tastes divine). And you have to know exactly how thickly to spread it or it all gets ruined. And now you want me to trust that it's going to taste alright when converted to powder form and splattered on crisps in a factory? Not bloody likely!
"Tomato Ketchup" - a title that is wrong on so many levels, first and foremost of which is the redundancy of calling it tomato ketchup. WHAT OTHER KIND OF KETCHUP IS THERE? That's what ketchup is! Ketchup is, by definition tomato ketchup. That would be like calling a wine, grape chardonnay or referring to a tobacco cigarette or stupid conservative (thank you people, I'll be here all week).....and furthermore WHY on earth would you want a quasi-ketchup flavoring embedded into your potato chip when surely the more elegant choice would be to dip your chip in your own ketchup?
"Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pudding"......which begs the question, why not just eat roast beef and Yorkshire pudding? If they make roast beef and Yorkshire pudding that tastes of potato chips will you eat that? Freak.
"Builder's Breakfast" - I'm going to go out on a limb here, British cuisine being as diverse as it is, and assume that a "Builder's Breakfast" isn't much different from the classic "Full British Breakfast" which consists of eggs, bacon, blood sausage, toast and runny baked beans in tomato sauce with two unexplained tomato slices on the edge of the plate. How you'd manage to get this cacophony of flavors orchestrated into one synthetic powder to smear on the crisps is beyond me.
What do the Portuguese eat for breakfast? Does it really warrant a tribute?
Again: If you need to taste this then why not just go and eat the actual - oh, never mind.
Yes, it says, Cajun Squirrel. Yes, it's an actual flavor. No, I don't know if they have plans to flavor chips after the Eastern Grey or the Red European varieties, nor do I know whether there are people who would be able to taste the difference.
I am sorry people, but frankly I would like all the nonsense to stop. Plain old salted potato chips/crisps are something that everyone can agree on. Serve them at a party or when you have your nice friends over to play cards and no one will complain. The fancy flavors just make you look ridiculous and like you have no morals. It's all clearly getting out of hand and if you are not part of the solution you are part of the problem. You know I'm right.