I have an old school chum, Dicky Woollard, who used to be a crisp wunderkind. He was the man behind all those flavours that, once they hit your tongue, you would instinctively purr ‘Oooh! Sausage and Beans!’ to a select tasting committee responsible for sourcing and funding exciting new avenues in the potato chip arena. This he achieved by pioneering an extraordinarily cost-effective method of seasoning the naked crisp as it emerged from the frier, gasping and pathetically porous, by squirting it with a powerful concentrate that clung to its quarry like a Murdoch to News International. This did away with the necessity to enhance pre-dunk, which unfortunately nuked off many of those MSGs so vital to one’s cognitive responses, and thereby required quantity to Dicky’s quality. In short, he was the Thomas Edison of snacks and, to my mind, one of the unsung culinary heroes of our time.
There’s not much not to like about the humble crisp. For starters, there’s very little actual substance in a bag of ‘em, truly making it the treat you can eat between meals. Furthermore, never before in the history of food has simplicity been made so ruthlessly efficient. Within seconds you can be enjoying a full English breakfast, a Thai jungle curry or an exotic hint of the Orient, all of which have been made possible by a swollen tuber that spends the best part of its useful months underground. A bit like Rocky 2 without the violence or monosyllabic dialogue.
Publicans have long courted the allure of our coated cousins because a), they cost next to nothing and b), the salt count is so astronomically high that it is not physically possible not to order more drinks after a bag or two. Inexpensive business acumen, just ask Nibs. And whilst they face fierce competition from the likes of the nut and, new kid on the block, the savory popcorn, these babies have stood the test of time and have no intention whatsoever of being consigned to the dustbin of yesteryear. Find me a boozer that shuns the crisp and I will show you a liar.
Anyway, I think we’re missing a trick here, and by this I do not mean to tinker in any way with the Godlike precedent set by young Dicky back in the day. No siree. It’s just, well, it’s just the bloody names, innit? If we are living through a time in which a potato can become pretty much anything you like, why draw a halt at cheese and onion or BBQ beef? Dare to be different, people! Let’s have Despair flavour. Naïve Optimism flavour. Kierkegaard’n’Chive. Taxplan’n’Tuna. Or how about New Olympic flavour (as used by Chris Hoy) in an empty packet? See? Teen Spirit. Hospital Corners. John Prescott Scratchings. There are no boundaries other than the walls of your imagination. Now, do your bit: I look forward to further suggestions in the comments section…