Friday, January 26, 2007


There was a time – about 1964 I think it was – when men were men and crisps were crisps. The crisps came in one flavour, and that was Potato. Yes, Potato Crisps, made by Smiths. In each bag was a little twist of blue paper containing salt, which you sprinkled on the crisps.

One day at about this time I was at Flamingo Park Zoo – now known as Flamingo Land – with a little friend of mine called Margaret Ball, having been taken out for the day by her parents. I was standing there being photographed with a parrot on my shoulder, as seemed to happen strangely often in those days. Suddenly when Margaret’s mum put a packet of crisps into my hand. Amazement! Cheese and Onion! This was a whole new world of crisps.

And from then on the Crisps phenomenon quickly spread. The twist of salt disappeared and soon came in all sorts of flavours – Salt and Vinegar, Prawn Cocktail, Smoky Bacon.

Potato was replaced by Ready Salted and remains so to this day. So indoctrinated are we on the crisp front that we never, ever pause to ask why Ready Salted is considered a flavour of anything.

And then of course, dozens of crisp-like creations flooded the market – Wotsits, Quavers, Skips and – Emily’s favourite and she isn’t even ashamed – Pickled Onion flavour Monster Munch, which is right down there with Coco Pops in the Fiery Pit of Food Hell.

The packet colours are part of our national consciousness. Try this exciting Crisp Test if you don’t believe me:

What colour are the packets of - -
Ready Salted?
Salt and Vinegar?
Cheese and Onion?
Prawn Cocktail?

You knew it, didn’t you? Against your will you thought Red, Blue, Green and That Vile Pink Colour.

But now crisps have fallen from favour. They are bad for you, full of fat and high in salt and the man formerly known as That Nice Gary Lineker is now That Evil Purveyor of Death in a Packet.

So some manufacturers, in the desperate hope that they will somehow manage to associate crisps with a modern healthy lifestyle, have tweaked crisps a bit to make them sound a bit more – well – middle-class. So now they are all hand-carved out of the rare King Charles potato and cooked in Polyunsaturated Fatless Oilfree Oil made from crushed carrots and broccoli juice. They have flavours such as Cracked Peppercorn.

What’s confusing is that they are the wrong colours. Last night in the pub David bought some hand-carved crisps and there was a blue bag containing Ready Salted. There was a red bag containing Cheese and Onion. And there was a yellow bag covered in strange black dots. I never found out what flavour it contained – Leopard, probably.

Ah! The future suddenly seems so exciting.


Blogger John said...

Potato Puffs. What about Potato Puffs?

In the summer term, when I was at my first school, we used to go to the swimming baths once a week, where we had to prove to Mrs Marriage that we could do the breast stroke on a bench beside the pool before we were actually allowed into the wet stuff.

We were taken to the baths in an old coach [it was an old coach even then] which smelt of musty upholstery and furniture polish. We had to hold our breath as we went under the Huddersfield Viaduct, which was okay so long as the driver didn't need to change gear - no synchromesh in those days, it was all double de-clutch and red-cheeked children.

The baths were tiled floor to ceiling with wooden lockers down each side, and after dressing again we would traipse out of the pool, with our undone laces trailing in the cracked-tile chlorine puddles and make our way to the tuck shop. With stinging eyes and damp hair we would buy Potato Puffs, ah, the bright crisp salty taste was divine.

Nigel Hinchcliffe bought Wagon Wheels, but his cause was not ours, as was clearly demonstrated by the way he made his guns with a complete flat hand when we played cowboys and indians, unlike the accepted method of the first two fingers sticking forward barrel-like while your thumb held back the other two fingers. Mind you it worked, he killed more of us this way, much faster on the draw.

10:54 pm  
Anonymous Ruth said...

The colour of salt & vinegar and cheese & onion crisp packets surely depended on whether you bought Smiths or Walkers - both blue or green but one of them had the packet colours completely the wrong way round.

I have to confess to not caring enough to have paid attention and therefore don't remember now which way round was which, but when I was at school there tended to be a certain amount of snobbery about which brand of crisps you ate so if you thought salt & vinegar should be in blue packets you were a bit common and if you thought they should be in green you were probably allowed to sit with the "in" crown at lunch. Or was it the other way round? Like I say I didn't care and didn't have crisps in my packed lunch anyway.

But I did have a Club biscuit and there was great kudos in being able to eat all the chocolate off the biscuit then separate the two halves and eat the filling so you were just left with the biscuit. This had to be accomplished without breaking the biscuit - I could do the eating the chocolate off the outside but doubt if I ever succeeded in getting at the filling without breaking at least one of the biscuits... oh well maybe that explains why I have never amounted to much in the world!

12:38 pm  

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