British Foods: Crisps

British specialty foods are really catching on here in the U.S., including a real favorite called “Crisps.”

Language alert: Although English is considered quite a universal language and is indeed spoken and/or read by a large portion of the world’s population, still the variations in usage and terminology can be as much an impediment to understanding and communicating as if one person were speaking Italian and the other English. Here is a good example, where “crisp” here in the U.S. indicates things like how you like your chicken fried and in the UK it refers to a snack.

That being said, it’s time to take a closer look at this product that is becoming more popular on both sides of “the Pond.”

What Is a Crisp, British-style?

Simply put, a crisp is what we call potato chips. A key difference is that the spuds were grown in Britain and subjected to some good old British weather. From field to bag is a pretty short trip, with only a few quick steps in-between: harvest the spuds, check them for top quality, wash and peel and slice, cook in hot oil, and season with a variety of different combinations of ingredients to produce different flavors of crisps. They contain no preservatives and so must be sold and consumed fairly quickly, making them tricky items to import into this country and present to an unknowing market.

A Top British Brand of Crisps: Walker’s

Walker's Crisps — letting the snacking commence. Crunch!
Walker’s Crisps — letting the snacking commence. Crunch!

According to consumer research by IGD, about 88% of the population in Britain snacks, either because they are hungry, because they are bored, or to substitute for a meal they would not normally eat (which sort of makes this the same as the first reason, hm…). Crisps are the top snack they reach for, and Walker’s is the top brand they reach for. The snacks are made up fresh, using sunseed oil so they have 70% less saturated fat than the other brands.

Some great flavors to try:

  • Walkers Ready Salted Crisps — Sometimes nothing beats classic simplicity like these crisps, popular for over 60 years. Just a bit of salt on these wonderful fried thin slices of potato bring out their earthy yet fresh flavor. You might end up having to hide the bag to keep these treats all to yourself.
  • Walker’s Salt & Vinegar Potato Crisps — This flavor of crisps is meant to be related to a British food tradition — fish and chips! The combination of these two deep-fried foods dates back to the 19th century during the Industrial Revolution and was even mentioned in Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist. These days fish and chip shops are just about everywhere in the UK, especially at seaside resorts. Can’t travel that far? No worries. Get that classic taste with a bag or two or three of these crisps!
  • Walker’s Monster Munch Pickled Onion Crisps — Pickled onions are as British as the white cliffs of Dover. From the traditional ploughman’s lunch to huge jars of onions in the local chippy to the W.I. making pickled onions for fetes, these tangy treats abound. No need to go travelling there, though. A bag of these crisps will be your magic carpet taste experience!
  • Walker’s Cheese & Onion Crisps — The ploughman’s lunch (cheese, onion salad, and bread) mentioned above was made up as a marketing ploy by the English Country Cheese Council. These crisps mimic that basic flavor combination, but you don’t have to be a ploughman to enjoy them!
  • Walker’s Prawn Cocktail Crisps — Prawn cocktails became popular in hotel restaurants in Britain in the 1960s and are still a top starter for many Brits. These crisps mimic that flavor and posh appeal!
  • Walkers Worcester Sauce Crisps — A recipe brought back from India (Bengal) was turned into a classic in 1838 by John Lea and William Perrins, two British chemists. They discovered almost by accident that a little fermentation was needed to make the flavor go from “Yuck!” to “Yum!” These crisps, with their distinctive taste, will certainly illicit a “Yum!” from you.
  • Walkers Roast Chicken Crisps — Second to roast beef, roast chicken is a top choice for Sunday lunch for Brits. Get that Sunday lunch flavor in a bag or two of these crisps!

Toss a few packages of each flavor in your bag of treats for the next picnic, camping trip, or beach sojourn. Bring along plenty of tea in a cooler for a refreshing way to wash down these potato chi… uh, crisps!

See also:
Snacking British Style

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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