COLUMN: October 31, 2013

I HEARD a rattle in the office. “Oh, good, another collection,” I thought. “Who’s leaving now? I hope it’s not me.”

It rattled again and I recognised it. It wasn’t money in an envelope, it was the hollow but resonant sound of concave discs made of reconstituted potato solids bashing against foil-lined cardboard. Somebody had Pringles and was sharing them with colleagues.

I couldn’t take the risk that I would miss out on free office food, so I anticipated the course the Pringle-giver would take and found an excuse to be on it, standing at the desk of another colleague and asking him a question to which I already knew the answer.

“Would you like a Pringle, Gary?” Lorna the Snack-donor asked. I pretended to look pleasantly surprised. “Why, yes I would. What flavour are they?”

“Mint chocolate,” she replied.

The gears in my head began to grind. “What, it’s chocolate in the shape of Pringles?”

“No,” she said. I looked inside the tube. It was filled with Pringles of normal appearance. “Do you want one?” she asked…

It was at this point that I finally decided, beyond the point of certainty, that we have to get a grip on crisps.

I have been formulating this notion for some time, ever since Walkers, the duplicitous creators of the blue cheese and onion packet, started boasting of the provenance of the ingredients which are smashed up in a lab to produce flavours.

The very limit was a packet I saw last week in Tesco of “Cornish sea salt and Westcountry cider vinegar” crisps.

I am not saying that provenance in food is unimportant. I understand the implications of food miles and supporting British farmers and humane animal husbandry.

But it’s bloody crisps! If I have chosen crisps, I have already dismissed crudites, or flatbread with houmous, or olives.

What I have done is chosen a vegetable that is so nutritionally useless that it does not count in one’s “five-a-day”. Even bananas count in that and they are basically sweets.

Then this vegetable has been sliced so thinly that it is merely a vessel for the oil in which it has been deep-fried. And finally it is coated in salt, flavourings and preservatives.

These are what I have chosen, lovely, lovely crisps. I’ve already given up.

I don’t care if the pork in the smokey bacon flavour is from Norfolk. I had previously assumed that smokey bacon crisps had been so far away from actual pig that they could conceivably be considered kosher. I am as interested in where the salt comes from as I am in the origin of the potassium chloride.

I am trying to imagine a world in which people worry about this sort of thing. And here I am, imagining it…

CHARLES & EDDIE ARE IN THE SUPERMARKET.
CHARLES: Edwardo, poppet, could you choose some nibbles for tonight’s soiree?
EDDIE: Do you have to speak to me like that in public? Here we are. Prawn cocktail crisps?
CHARLES: I’m not sure that’s quite the impression we want to give in 2013. What next? Monster Munch?
EDDIE: We could do it ironically, like Nigella…
CHARLES: Oh, I do like that. Carry… No, wait! Those crisps! Are the tomatoes used in the chemical compound which flavours the crisp from the Vale of Evesham?
EDDIE: Erm… No.
CHARLES: What sort of monster are you?!

“Do you want one?” Lorna repeated, shaking the tube. I thought about it. Did I want to lie on my deathbed, counting my regrets, and have that one included in the tally? “I should have tried a mint choc Pringle. I only had that one opportunity before the world came to its senses.”

“OK,” I shuddered, and pushed my fist inside. I paused, Pringle in hand, and took a bite.

Imagine eating a potato crisp that tastes of mint chocolate. That is exactly what it is like, as vile as that sounds. It was utterly baffling and never to be repeated, like Lost.

It’s astonishing to think that somebody at Pringles thought, “What flavours haven’t we done yet?” and alighted on this before venison or houmous or cabbage.

But appalling as it is, at least it is honest in its appalling nature. At least it doesn’t pretend that I care whether the chocolate flavouring my potato crisp is Belgian.

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