One of my favorite things about traveling is exploring the local cuisine.
By which I mean the junk food that you get at the grocery store.
You can learn a lot about a place by what the local citizenry consider an acceptable snack food flavoring.
For example, go into any Asian grocery, and you will find prawn/shrimp flavored chips. In England, you can get “lamb and mint”, “roast chicken and thyme”, “roast beef”, as well as “prawn cocktail” chip flavors. While in France, there exists both ham AND bacon flavored chips. They are all delicious and equally bad for you.
What’s interesting is many of these chips are from the U.S. based brand, Frito Lay, makers of Lays potato chips; they simply adjust to the tastes of their consumers. So clearly the international market is not only WAY more adventurous, but considers various meats as valid flavor options.
I have no idea why this isn’t the case in the U.S., and it makes me sad. There must be something in our psyche that flinches from the idea of meat as a seasoning, because we clearly do not object to eating meat in general. Do we think there’s a slippery “meat” slope, and if we accept meat flavored potato chips, we will suddenly be awash in meaty milkshakes and steaming cups of beefy tea*?
There is also this tendency for Americans to prefer sweet over savory, so even our salty items tend to be spiked with a bit more sugar than would be found in other countries.
However, this may be changing! Americans have started to enjoy spicy much more in recent years, there’s been an uptick in hot-sauce flavored potato chips, such as Tapitio, Sriacha, as well as the continued popularity of Flaming Hot Cheetos.
Could this be the precursor to a meatier snacking future!?
Maybe! Last year, Lays introduced this:
And while it did not win their new potato chip flavor contest, it is currently available for now.
The question, does it taste like chicken and waffles?
Well…it tastes like something kind of chicken-y. The truth is, I could do without the waffle part, but this validates my dual theories of “fear of unadulterated meat flavor” and “savory also needs to be sweet.”
They can’t hold a candle to the “Roast Chicken and Thyme” chips I had in England a few years back. I had brought a bag home to share with friends, and it’s something we still reminisce about.
(Not in a weird way…but over explaining never makes anything less odd, does it?)
*a real thing, called Bovril. For close readers and fans of Roald Dahl, Matilda in his book “Matilda” actually makes herself a cup.