The Third Leader: The soggy state of the crisp

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The Independent Online

Troubling times. First the French and Dutch throw the future of Europe into doubt, and now it emerges here that crisps sales are down. Raise an eyebrow if you like, but the Briton in pensive mid-munch with hand in the packet preparing to produce the next mouthful is as much a defining sight here as cricket, pillar boxes, rainand Sir Bob in mid-rant.

Troubling times. First the French and Dutch throw the future of Europe into doubt, and now it emerges here that crisps sales are down. Raise an eyebrow if you like, but the Briton in pensive mid-munch with hand in the packet preparing to produce the next mouthful is as much a defining sight here as cricket, pillar boxes, rainand Sir Bob in mid-rant.

And more than that: the crisp is a symbol of robust British attitudes to the posh and highfalutin that have cheerily existed here since well before the English and Welsh archers gave their short two-fingered response to the faffing about of the flower of French chivalry at Agincourt.

An American invention, it has been taken to our hearts, often literally, since the 1940s, when it escaped the rationing applied to potatoes. The crisp was a liberating, modern experience, free of fork and etiquette and elders and betters. Since then, we have become the biggest crisp eaters in Europe, again often literally, and have, largely, resisted new and exotic snack blandishments. If we wanted anything fancy, there was always prawn cocktail flavour.

They did bring back the nostalgia-famed blue bags of salt, but truecrisp eaters have had no truck with that, either, disdaining retro-ironic marketing and remembering the perils of uneven distribution.

All changing now, though, apparently. Now it's nuts: pecans, macadamias, cashews, stuff like that. Among crisps themselves, prawn cocktail is giving way to parsnip. Parsnip. Healthy. People of taste, nutritionists and Olivers everywhere will cheer. Only a melancholy, misguided churl will mourn the old crisp. Thank you.

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