I’m not a religious man, but I always give something up for Lent. Last year was chilli sauce, the year before tea, one year I’ll do booze. For 2016 I decided to set myself the hardest challenge yet: crisps.
Now of course I love crisps: I’d gladly have them with every meal. Crisps with a roast? Crisps on pavlova? Crisps in Yakult? All of that. So I genuinely thought I’d end up cracking or forgetting when I was leathered. But I did it! 46 days clean and crisp-free! Woo, etc. Which is obviously great, except today I had crisps for breakfast.
Fortunately I’ve not careered headfirst into Frazzle-strewn oblivion and you don’t need to call my parents to stage an intervention. I simply used the completion of Twitter’s World Cup Of Crisps (#wcocr2016) as a flimsy excuse to sample an early morning pack of the winner- Pickled Onion Monster Munch.
When I saw that Monster Munch had won I actually wasn’t sure at first. Obviously they are better than the inconceivably popular Wotsit - who they faced in the final - for Wotsits are a putrid air sock of a crisp; a crisp that leaves the eater with a orange, Oompa Loompa-esque mouth smear so virulent it can only be removed with a scouring pad.
Thankfully Monster Munch edged them out by 52% to 48%, but the question remains: are they really the greatest exponent of mankind’s greatest ever snack? Better than Salt and Vinegar Discos? Better than Pickled Onion Space Raiders? Better than the sadly-departed-but-never-ever-forgotten Teriyaki Kettle Chip?
The first important thing to note is that *generally* crap crisps are the best. Stuff made out of corn rather than potatoes, and fired up with enough flavouring to make your arteries twitch. Chipsticks. Frazzles. Doritos (Chilli Heatwave > Cool Original > Tangy Cheese). Anything by Smiths. Monster Munch.
If I was to doff my cap to a potato crisp that’s actually made out of potatoes, it would be to McCoys. I know there’s that whole ‘Man Crisp’ thing in their advertising, but it’s really not about being a man crisp so much as a man’s friend. McCoys (Salt And Vinegar or Flame Grilled Steak) will buy you shots when your ex walks by the bar with her new fella. When a pipe bursts in your house they’ll rush round and make the flooding stop. When you get married they won’t make best man, they might not even make usher, but fuck it they’re there for the ceremony and you’re just so glad they are.
Secondly, flavour. All the best crisps have a acuteness of flavour that almost makes them inedible. Two steps away from inedible: that’s the sweet spot you’re looking for with a really afternoon-altering crisp. The salt levels must be intense, and this must be coerced with a flavour, ideally tangy, that when spliced together make you chew the inside of your mouth. If I’m eating a pack of crisps and there’s not a 50% chance of it giving me an ulcer then frankly it’s wasting my time.
Thirdly: heritage. The best crips join the dots between your lunch and your childhood. Take Salt n’ Shake. Salt n’ Shake are tasteless flaps of unadorned potato with a sachet of humanity’s unfittest sodium. There’s never enough salt in them to coat the crisps properly - certainly not enough to align it with the vital two-steps-away-from-inedible formula - yet talk to anyone about Salt N’ Shake and they will go all glassy-eyed and speak of how they used to have them in their lunchbox at school. Before you know it they’re ruminating about endless summers, playground football and innocent games of ‘show me yours and I’ll show you mine’ .
No crisp better achieves this than Pickled Onion Monster Munch. Monster Much actually first came out in 1977, and Pickled Onion is the only flavour that has been an ever present. Essentially it’s a crisp every member of the Twitter generation grew up with. From Mods to Millenails, it’s been a staple and you’d had it for for elevenses, out of a lunchbox, as an afternoon snack, shared with a lover, during a game and you’ve almost certainly bought a pack from a garage at 2am on the way back from the pub. And now I’ve had them for breakfast and they were as moreish then as they were when I was a kid. So God bless you, Monster Munch, and bye bye Lent. I’m back on the wagon
Now read this....