Britain is a nation of snackers. Think about it, outside the US where else in the world has our treasured grazing culture? The Spaniards and French eat in a far more regimented manner. Whereas us Brits will make a meal out of anything. Be it elevenses, tea, high tea or an after-dinner snack, our eating opportunities are endless. But it’s crisps which come out on top. They are the ideal snack food, that can be shared (or not) at any time of day.
Elsewhere, the humble crisp is enjoyed on the odd occasion with an aperitif. Five or six are politely nibbled on a midsummer's eve in the Dordogne while discussing local politics and sipping a cold glass of wine. Yes they feature, but by no means are crisps the centrepiece in this scenario - they’re simply an accompaniment.
In the UK, crisps are an institution with Walkers alone producing 10m packets a day. We have a completely different etiquette when it comes to devouring our favourite salty treats. Whether it's on-the-go as a light snack, or shovelling mouthful after mouthful into your gob with a pint on a Friday night.
Our love affair with crisps started long ago and nowadays a passion for potatoes is pretty much hard-wired into our DNA. But unfortunately, this snack food integral to our nation is under threat. Enter: healthy crisps.
The obsession with “healthy eating” slowly but surely sweeping the nation is definitely to blame for the influx of crisp alternatives littering our snacking aisles. Previously sane people are now downing gallons of green juice and manically spiralising anything they can get their hands on in the name of “clean eating”. And that’s fine, you do you. But when you start to mess with crisps, that’s when it gets personal.
Variations of fruit and vegetable crisps are beginning to rear their ugly heads in supermarkets, and trendy sandwich bars nationwide. From flavoured kale crisps to air-dried apple slices, it seems that hipster health nuts will try anything they can get their hands on.
But why? Where is the need to ruin a perfectly good snack with the introduction of token greenery. Fruit, vegetables and crisps are separate entities. If you want a healthier snack, why not follow your mum’s orders and “have a piece of fruit”. If you want a packet of crisps, eat the crisps. It's as simple as that. They fill very different roles within a balanced diet, and in my opinion, don’t even need to meet let alone engage in any sort of partnership.
Think of the children. Crisps are a staple of school lunchboxes and their value is acknowledged from a very young age. At primary school, crisps were a valuable currency of their own. A highly regarded lunch item that (flavour dependent) could score you all manner of lunchtime treats. With the correct marketing and audience (a younger kid, less aware of the crisp hierarchy) a fairly standard packet of Salt and Vinegar could be traded up. While a packet of the King, Doritos Cool Original or any other above-average flavour would ensure you have all manner of proposals coming your way. From swaps for two Kit-Kats to completed maths homework, your wish was their command.
I doubt a packet of apple crisps has quite the same effect. Kids today are subjected to the unwelcome intrusion of packets of tasteless courgette crisps in the place of their saltier forefathers. Never will they experience the rush of anticipation as you slowly peel back the lid of your lunchbox to reveal the day’s moorish treat. The elation when you realise you have made the big time or the disappointment you feel when you realise your own mother has metaphorically stabbed you in the back with a packet of Wheat Crunchies. This rollercoaster of emotions teaches kids a valuable lesson that life’s not always fair. So if nothing more, crisps are educational.
It's not just the kids who will suffer. Adults will be affected to. Imagine at the end of a long week, you’re invited to a friend’s house to slob out on the sofa with a couple of drinks and most importantly a few snacks. Bliss. But instead the G&T that your hard work this week has earnt you is presented alongside a bowl of apple crisps. In pure horror, you now have no choice but to flee the scene and spend the next few hours considering terminating the friendship in fear of the harm that could come to you. Fruit crisps are as much of a mood-killer as socks and sandals or warm beer and curly sandwiches.
Crisps are a no frills crowd pleaser. Whether you’re partial to a Prawn Cocktail or prefer the safety of a robust Ready Salted, there are thousands of brands and flavours on the market at any time. When it comes to crisps there’s something for everyone.
As hard as they might try, fruit and veg crisps just can’t compete. They can never satisfy everyone in the way crisps effortlessly can. A “Cool Original” banana chip should and will never get past the board room. So seriously veg crisps, quit while you still have your dignity intact.
The price of these crisp imposters also leaves much to be desired. Healthy alternatives will set you back nearly double what a standard packet would. And what for? For a moment's gratification that you’ve “been good” today. So that colleagues can congratulate you on your healthy snack choices while they make a beeline for the office biscuit selection, publically promising that “the diet starts Monday” as if anyone in the office believes it or cares.
No foods are inherently “good” or “bad”. Surely you’re aware by now that it's all about “moderation”. So rather than trying to trick yourself into believing you’re healthier for eating pineapple crisps, why not simply enjoy fruit, veg and crisps separately, as they were originally intended. And just leave crisps alone.