Being Modern: Gourmet crisps


What colour have you got? Red? EURGH! I've got my blue ones, and I ain't givin' you any. That, at least, is representative of a typical breaktime conversation at my primary school, a few decades ago. And it hardly needs a semiotician to break it down: red equals ready salted equals not enough flavour equals EURGH! Blue equals either salt and vinegar (Golden Wonder) or cheese and onion (Walkers, which, for reasons unfathomable, switched the universally held acceptance that green was cheesy and blue was salty), which equals yum, and you ain't havin' any.

So, simple as you like. And we were happy as Larry – Larry being the kid with the pink bag, cos he liked prawn cocktail, the up'imself little blighter.

Then it all became complicated. Oh, you had your Worcester Sauce, your Beef and Onion, your scampi fries (and thereafter fingers that smelt not so much of the sea as vomit), your Space Raiders and your Wotsits (both of which deserve to be a food category unto themselves) – they did just what they said on the pack. Except, perhaps, Space Raiders, which were neither extra-terrestrial in origin, nor terribly raidery.

No, that lot were not worrisome at all; but then along came the more recent developments… such as the colour red meaning sweet Thai chilli as much as it does ready salted; or the trend that means crisps can no longer be just salt-and-vinegar, they have to be Chardonnay Wine Vinegar; or the ridiculous notion that means smoky bacon is now smoked streaky bacon, made in Devon, WITH REAL BACON. No longer can vegetarians casually grab anything, safe in the knowledge that no real ingredients are involved in any "meaty" packet.

And for every realistic-tasting wasabi crisp, there's a boak-able fish-and-chips flavour; for every Jalapeño and lemon, a "full English breakfast". It's as if it's not enough for them to be snacks any more and they have to be meals in themselves.

Sure, some of the new flavours are nice enough – but more often than not, it's enough to make you pine for a good old salt'n'shake.