Battle of the Weird-Ass British Potato Chips, Oops! Crisps

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Walkers, of Leicester, England, manufactures several oddball flavors of crisps that will be unfamiliar to Americans.

Funny how each nation of snackers prefers its own strange potato chip flavors. In America, where the potato chip was invented in Saratoga Springs in 1853, we long ago grew tired of plain grease and salt, and now our potato chip selection runs to Guacamole, Carolina Barbecue, Hawaiian, and Salt-and-Vinegar.

Who can deny other countries their potato chip weirdnesses? English chip flavors, in particular, seem very strange to us. So, this week we're pitting a couple of English "crisps" against one another. One is supposedly flavored like the flesh of roast chickens, the other with Worcestershire sauce, a condiment whose colonial history is so knotted, that the transformation of the flavor into a chip can only provide further confusion. So, without further delay, put up your dukes, chips!

Next: Cultural context

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In one corner of the ring, Worcestershire Sauce chips (left), and in the other corner, Roast Chicken chips (right).

The idea of making chips taste like chicken is an odd one. Is the idea that the chips can somehow replace a chicken dinner? Is the product a low-ball attempt to lure the poor, who can't afford a real chicken dinner, or the lazy, who don't want to get up off the couch and throw a supermarket chicken into the oven, into enjoying the next best thing? Or is the flavor intended to make the chips seem wholesome?

All these conceptions may be in play here, because a text on the back of the package underneath a picture of a combine plowing a field reads: "Everyone loves digging into a Sunday roast and, as a spud, there's no shame in being chosen for a traditional chicken dinner. But secretly, every homegrown spud would rather star in a bag of Walker's Roast Chicken flavor, than share a plate with a Brussel [sic] sprout..." Get the dig about not wanting to associate with (yuck!) vegetables?

The Worcestershire sauce flavored chips are perhaps even stranger. This condiment is obviously a product of British colonialism, because it's bursting with Southeast Asian flavors in a way that makes it stand out in a cuisine that is typically bland and boring. In fact, the sauce itself contains so many ingredients, that we won't reproduce them here, but suffice to say that orange peel and anchovies are important components, making it a species of Malaysian or Philippine fish sauce.

Flavoring salty chips with Worcestershire doesn't sound like a bad idea, but read on friend...

Next: Tasting notes


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