Sunday, 6 February 2011

The unstoppable crisp

We may all be cutting back on spending because of the recession, but some things are sacrosanct. Last year our consumption of crisps went up by 5.7 per cent.

That's an extra 208 million bags of those crunchy slivers of fried potato we're all mysteriously addicted to. Can you go anywhere without that raucous crunching sound from someone's favourite snack hovering in the background?

Nobody can really explain why we're such suckers for something so insubstantial and so unhealthy, and so absurdly expensive for what it is (raw ingredient - a potato or two with some seasoning).

Is it that fabulous crunching sound as we demolish a crisp? Is it those weird and wonderful artificial flavours? Is it just the secret thrill of eating something especially noisy and ostentatious? Whatever the reason, we're hooked on them.

Supposedly* we owe this uncontrollable addiction to a hotel diner in Saratoga Springs, New York State, in 1853 who complained that his fried potatoes were too thick and too soggy. Chef George Crum responded by slicing the potatoes as thin as he could. The diner was so enthusiastic about the result that they became a regular menu item, "Saratoga Chips". And the rest, as they say, is history - and big business.

Now crisps are the UK's third most popular snack after fresh fruit and chocolate. We just can't get enough of those curly wafers of fried spud.

But I have a shameful confession to make. I'm not a great crisp devotee. Actually I prefer hula hoops. Or Bombay Mix. So I'd better not set foot in Saratoga Springs. An angry mob might just chase me out of town.

* So it says in Wikipedia.

28 comments:

Scarlet Blue said...

God, I love crisps and can easily demolish a family, bumper, super-sized bag within seconds... and don't get me started on fish finger and crisp sandwiches.
Kettles crisps are organic and handcut - so I reckon they must be okay.
Sx

Liz said...

Pringles, they're the killer. I swear they have an addictive ingredient.

Nick said...

Scarlet - A pity I can't try fish finger and crisp sandwiches, being a vegetarian and all. Kettle Crisps still contain salt and sugar so the diet experts wouldn't be happy....

Liz - You never know. Maybe they contain alcohol instead of vinegar.

Grannymar said...

I have been known to crunch on the odd bag of crisps. I usually have a bag in the pantry - to crumble and scatter over a mashed potato roof on Shephard's pie!

Scarlet Blue said...

Yeah, I knew that really! But crisps are one of my two major vices and I don't allow myself into a bag too often.
Sx

Nick said...

Grannymar - Crumbled over Shepherd's pie, that's a clever idea. Though in my case it would have to be Greengrocer's Pie. Now there's a concept to conjure with....

Nick said...

Scarlet - I understand the Vice Squad will soon be clamping down on crisp-eaters, after years of leniency. I think they're due in your area on Tuesday.

Grannymar said...

'Greengrocer's Pie' sounds interesting. Fancy doing a guest post on it some Food Monday?

Baino said...

Not a crisp lover myself but I do miss Marks and Spencer's Cheese and Onion. I didn't know that about the invention of the crisp. Filed in the memory banks for the next trivia night.

Nick said...

Grannymar - Well, since I just made it up on the spur of the moment, I have no idea what it might contain! I'll have to have a think!

Baino - The story of how the crisp was invented is fascinating - if it's true, that is. Now you can bore all your friends by asking them what originated in Saratoga Springs.

Wisewebwoman said...

Confession.
I've been known to import a whole box of Taytoes. Cheese and Onion. Of course.
XO
WWW

heartinsanfrancisco said...

I don't love potato chips all that much, but Flip does. Whenever he goes to the store with me, he sneaks them into the shopping cart like a 4-year old. He can even flush them out at Whole Foods. I like potatoes, just not anything greasy.

secret agent woman said...

What are hula hoops and Bombay mix?

Not a giant fan of potato chips, although I'll certainly eat them if they are around. I do love corn chips though and in fact we're making nachos tonight. Mmmm.

(ha ha - word verification is krumb)

Nick said...

W3 - You wicked woman you. The Vice Squad will catch up with you as well.

Heart - I like the way Flip sneaks them into the shopping cart. Just like kids picking up chocolate bars.

Secret Agent - Hula Hoops are ring-shaped crisps with extra crunchiness. Bombay Mix is a mixture of chickpea flour noodles, lentils, peanuts, chickpeas, corn, and flaked rice. Yum!

nursemyra said...

I can't remember when I last had a bag of crisps. But chocolate.... that's another matter....

rummuser said...

....why we're such suckers for something so insubstantial and so unhealthy, and so absurdly expensive for what it is.

It is precisely for those reasons Nick!

I prefer pop corn though!

Nick said...

Myra - Me too. I can't go for long without my chocolate fix.

Ramana - You perverse person you. I shudder to think what other dietary horrors you're addicted to. Can't stand popcorn myself.

Forgot to mention re Bombay Mix - it's also extremely crunchy!

Eryl said...

My sister is addicted to crisp, but I can't stand things that stick to my teeth and hate overpowering artificial flavours, so haven't eaten any for years. I like the odd bombay mix lentil though, and those strange fluted sticks that always taste a bit stale.

Nick said...

Eryl - I don't like things sticking to my teeth either. Fluted sticks? What fluted sticks might those be?

tattytiara said...

I was always indifferent to them myself, until this last year. Now I eat them every single day. It's not pretty if I run out, either.

I don't know what the hell is wrong with me. Are potatoes a member of the opiate family?

Nick said...

Tattytiara - Rumour has it that crisp manufacturers are lacing the crisps with traces of pure cocaine.

kylie said...

i adore chips but i dont keep any in the house because once i start i'll never stop!!

Murr Brewster said...

It's no mystery. Fat + salt. What's not to love? I demolished a whole bag yesterday because I needed to know if the ones at the bottom of the bag were as good as the ones on top. In the name of science.

Nick said...

Kylie - There's definitely some addictive ingredient in crisps....

Murr - These scientific experiments are absolutely essential. I apply the same consistency test to bars of chocolate. To get a reliable result, at least 20 chocolate bars have to be tested.

Roses said...

For me, it's jars of green olives. No such thing as just one olive.

Closely followed by anchovies and sun dried tomatoes. Yummy.

Crisps, yummy, but not worth obsessing over.

Each to their own, I say. Especially if there's more olives for me.

Nick said...

Roses - I don't often have olives, but when I do there's no stopping me. I can demolish an entire bowlful at lightning speed. Sun dried tomatoes are delicious too.

Suburbia said...

I'm not a crisp addict either but my kids are. I try to limit their intake but they are too ingenious for me sometimes!!

Nick said...

Suburbia - Children's ingenuity knows no bounds when they're determined to get something!