The Contest

This winter Walkers Crisps unleashed a gimmick-laden campaign across the United Kingdom where several common folk worked with the company to develop new chip flavors that ultimately the public would vote on, the winning flavor joining the main Walkers “range.” A pun drunk copy permeates the whole affair, with a broad, borderline offensive “international” influence which attempts to appeal to the UK’s many classes and races. While I could spend my time here talking about the disgusting marketing campaign, I’ll digress as Chipweb is, and should be, first about the chips. That said, I was genuinely happy to have a bunch of strange new flavors to try, and admit I did quickly fall prey to the whole “collect ‘em all" device. I had to try them all!!! Ingeniously, it seems that Walkers doesn’t provide every flavor to any one store; you thus have to extend your quest, in another odious but effective ploy. Regardless, the flavorings mostly track with the cartoon-like campaign. I’ll talk specifics below, but the old problem of completely ignoring the potato was common. Furthermore, a chip that has such a singularly strong flavor does not beg to be consumed in large quantities: Even if it’s good, it’s ultimately too weird to eat a lot of. Here they are, in the order in which they were consumed:

Cajun Squirrel

I won’t even give this exhibitionist, inappropriately named chip the satisfaction of exclaiming over its name. The flavor is the most mundane of the bunch, a vaguely Louisiana, vaguely BBQ tang that while not bad, is nothing we haven’t had a million times before.

Onion Bhaji

My favorite of the bunch. The curry flavoring complements the potato well, while in general it’s a decent approximation of the ubiquitous mid-level curry available throughout the UK. After a beat, a mild onion flavor hits, adding a third complementary flavor to the chip.

Fish & Chips

Imagine the grossest, slimiest, indistinguishable, grey pile of limp fish and chips splayed on a plate in front of you, fluorescent lights buzzing overhead, in some depressing landlocked town in the middle of England. That is what these monstrosities taste like. If that’s what they were going for, they have succeeded nicely. Stay away!

Crispy Duck & Hoisin

Replicating a meat in a chip is always a tricky and curious business. Though “vegetarian friendly” it makes one think too much of the machines that replicate living creatures, or once living, in a bleak Dickian fantasy. These chips are not a success; the taste is odd enough to eat a few, but ultimately the fake duck flavor and the tangy hoisin sauce are hollow. Once the novelty wears thin, nothing remains.

Builder’s Breakfast

These took a little while, and again, one cannot help but think of the machines. These proclaim utility in that they claim to be perfect for those on the go in the morning who haven’t had time for their big disgusting English breakfast. They pack in eggs, bacon, tomato, beans, mushrooms, blood pudding, toast, rashers, etc. Admittedly impressive in that the chip does succeed in providing these flavors, triggered in succession rather than simultaneously. The egg flavor though gradually becomes sulfuric, and when you get that idea in your head, the chips become vile, tasting literally like a big bag of farts!

Chilli & Chocolate

Apparently the combination of chilli & chocolate has become increasingly popular in the UK. Being of “Aztec origin” is novel there, where South and Central American flavors are largely unknown, and usually done poorly when at all. These chips are interesting, and while I can’t call them good, they aren’t offensive. Combining a healthy heat and the richness rather than the sweetness of chocolate, it’s easy to eat a whole bag trying to decipher the flavor. They retain a certain mystery, perhaps one of the hardest qualities to achieve in a chip. Maybe, in fact, I can call them good.

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