Crisps vs. Chips; a story with flavo(u)r

A couple of weeks ago I posted a little amusing event involving crisps [or ‘chips’ as the Americans call them].

Since then I’ve written a few other posts and the subject of crisps hasn’t entered my head at all.  In fact I haven’t given them a second thought and instead have focused on compiling a multitude of notes and scribblings about other non-crisp related things.

Well, I noticed the other night – whilst shopping in Walmart with the wife – that there is a radical difference in the flavours [flavors] of the crisps [chips] on offer in the USA [USA….oh, wait, that’s the same.  Never mind].

With the sheer abundance of crisps [chi….oh you get the point] in America I thought there would be a massive variety of flavours too.

But no.

Now, before I go ‘full rant’, I want to preface this post by saying that I’m not talking about specialist flavours of crisps like Jalapeño and Lime, Sea Bass, Garlic Snails or Children’s Tears…no I’m reserving this for the everyday flavours you expect from your everyday crisps, every day.

Make sense?

Good.

Now, I want to quickly talk about Doritos.  When it comes to Doritos, the flavours are pretty much the same in both the UK and the USA.

Having said that, ‘Cool Ranch’ in the USA is somehow called ‘Cool Original’ in the UK because, apparently, the English aren’t able to comprehend what Ranch is.

Admittedly we’re not like the Americans who worship and bathe in the stuff like Cleopatra did in milk, but we know what Ranch is!

We have it as a salad dressing.

Also, ‘Cool Original’ as a name makes no sense.  It implies that this was the first ‘original’ flavour to be released when they hit the UK, but in fact they were accompanied by Tangy Cheese and Lightly Salted (thanks for the clarity Doritos, I’ll look elsewhere for ‘Heavily Salted’ shall I?).

Also, the word ‘cool’ suggests these corn snacks are somehow hip and trendy.  That’s just a bit weird.

It makes so much sense when they’re ‘Cool Ranch’ because, well, Ranch is cool.

Like bow-ties.

Also, the variety of Doritos flavours in the UK are almost identical to those in the USA, except for Nacho Cheese. How is that different to Tangy Cheese? Tell me America, how?

But as far as general flavours on other brands of crisps are concerned, there are significant differences.

In the UK, the general flavours you will find – over several different types of brands – are:

  • Ready Salted
  • Cheese and Onion
  • Salt and Vinegar
  • Cheese
  • Crispy Bacon
  • Beef and Onion
  • Prawn Cocktail
  • Pickled Onion
  • Hot and Spicy
  • Barbecue
  • Marmite
  • Worcester Sauce
  • Roast Chicken

We even went crazy and had limited edition flavours like Tomato Ketchup, Fish and Chips, Sausage and Egg and Hedgehog.

Yes, Hedgehog.

Seriously.

In the USA there are hundreds of brands across different styles all offering this wide variety of flavours:

  • Salt
  • Salt and Lime
  • Salt and Vinegar
  • Barbecue
  • Cheese
  • Barbecue Cheese
  • Hot and Spicy
  • Hot and Spicy Barbecue
  • Hot and Spicy Cheese

Are you noticing a pattern here?

I see these huge aisles of crisps in the supermarket and I get excited only to find it’s either salt, cheese and barbecue OR the hot and spicy versions of salt, cheese and barbecue.

Don’t get me wrong, there ARE exotic flavours like Jalapeño Lime and Garlic Bread, but we have those in England too and I consider these to be specialist, exotic flavours.

Where America gets it right though is with Pringles.

In the UK we have a few flavours, but in America there are SO many more.  Here are a small selection of the ones that have made me stop in my tracks and buy them:

  • Wasabi and Soy Sauce
  • Buffalo Wing
  • Honey Mustard
  • Mango Salsa
  • Dill Pickle
  • Cinnamon Sugar
  • Pizza
  • Loaded Baked Potato
  • Salsa De Chili Habanero

And there are a lot more, but these are the ones I’ve seen so far. I shudder to think what else they have in the works.  Probably Hot and Spicy versions of each.

Now we just need to work on getting some UK classics over here.

tara bath of crisps

Guzzling gas and soda: A comparison

Last month, whilst in Vegas visiting the in-laws, my wife and I stopped for gas (or ‘petrol’ as it’s known in the civilised world). The way they ‘pump gas’ in America is in complete contrast to how we do it in the UK.

Here we drive up to the pump, get out of the car, open the petrol cap and start filling. When we’re finished we head into the shop and pay for it.  In America they drive up to the pump (from any entrance I might add; none of this ‘way in’ and ‘way out’ bollocks), go into the shop, pay in advance for fuel (and snacks and beverages) and then head back to their vehicle and fill up.

The American approach comes with two pros and a con.

Pro number 1 – If you decide you want to spend $30 on gas (petrol), you pay the clerk in the shop and your pump is credited with exactly $30. There’s no chance of putting in more than you can afford. And on top of this, you can clip the trigger in position and leave it pumping fuel knowing you will never put in more than you want to spend.

pump gas

Genius.

Why aren’t we doing this?

It saves on hand strain and gives you more time to do other things, like eating.

If you then discover that your tank only needed, say, $25 worth of gas (petrol) you go back inside and the clerk behind the counter gives you back the difference.

Simple.

Pro number 2 – There’s no chance of people filling up and then not having the means to pay, or filling up and fucking off.

It’s a bit like prostitution but with pumps instead of pimps.

Con – You don’t get to play the ‘Petrol Pump Game’.

The what?

Allow me to elaborate. Let’s say you want to put £30 of fuel in your vehicle’s tank.  You start filling up until the price gets to somewhere around £29.85 at which point you ease off the trigger, slowing down the pumping speed.

(He he)

Then you start to adopt the technique of squeezing the trigger gently at little intervals to hit the price exactly at £30.

£29.85

Gentle squeeze.

£29.91

Gentle squeeze.

£29.95

Very gentle squeeze.

£29.96

Very gentle squeeze.

£29.97

VERY gentle squeeze.

£29.99

A squeeze so gentle it wouldn’t pop a soapy bubble even if your fingers were covered in coarse sand.

£30.01

Bollocks!

You then decide to go to £31.

Squeeze.

£30.85

Gentle squeeze.

£30.91

Very gentle squeeze.

£30.97

VERY gentle squeeze.

£30.98

A squeeze so gentle it can’t be measured at a microscopic level.

£31.01

Fuuuuuuck!!

This continues until you either:

  • Finally hit a round number.
  • Admit defeat and pay the extra penny, convinced the clerk is laughing at you behind those eyes.
  • Fill your tank.

It’s not a great game and can be quite costly, but there’s no feeling like hitting the price dead on, first time.  I’ve been known to let out the occasional air grab, sometimes accompanied by an “Aww Yeah!”

Anyway, whilst at the gas (petrol) station in Vegas I decided to get a drink because it was a very hot day, or as the locals call it; “a day”.  I was expecting to see a few fridges full of various beverages, the brands of which I’d never heard of, but nothing could prepare me for the sheer choice of refreshments available to me.

As well as the aforementioned fridges full to the brim with beer, wine, sodas (soft drinks) and so on, there were also aisles (plural!) of crisps (chips), nuts, beef jerky, slim jims (Peperami), candy (sweets and chocolate), cakes, sandwiches, cereals and other brightly coloured bags of chemicals and deliciousness too numerous to mention.

Most of these on a ridiculously huge scale!

big rice cake

And it didn’t stop there. There was a hot counter that had burgers, hot dogs, burritos, nachos, pies and pasties (the UK word for a type of pie and not the US word for a small plastic nipple hat)

In addition there was a coffee station that had more options than a Starbucks, a milkshake station that not only allowed you to choose your flavour(s) but also how thick you wanted it, a massive slushy machine with various flavours and the most amazing machine I’d ever seen; a touch screen soda dispenser with an overload of choices.

Oh, and everything was self-serve.

So let me tell you about this epic soda machine.

Firstly you’re presented with a screen with 24 choices of beverage.

That’s 24.

imagesPR1FKG3G

This is a significantly larger choice of drinks than any dispenser I’ve ever seen in the UK, which usually consist of Coke, Diet Coke, Sprite and Fanta.

That’s 4.

It’s an impressive choice but I wasn’t surprised at all because it’s what I expected from an American soda machine.  I selected Caffeine Free Diet Coke and prepared to fill up my oversized 64oz (approx 2 litre) plastic cup.

But no, there was another layer of choices awaiting me.

images34RVM3MM

Yes, that’s right.  I could have…

  • Cherry
  • Orange
  • Vanilla
  • Raspberry
  • Lime
  • Cherry Vanilla

…versions of Caffeine Free Diet Coke.

What the hell??  That’s AWESOME!

This got me thinking, is it the same for other drinks?

Yep.

imagesLH6K4J4H

Orange Fanta Zero comes with the option of:

  • Cherry
  • Strawberry
  • Raspberry
  • Grape
  • Lime
  • Fruit Punch
  • Peach

imagesNXJC7Q8I

Lemonade comes with the option of:

  • Cherry
  • Orange
  • Strawberry
  • Raspberry
  • Fruit Punch

images3KHD0GK8

Even Ginger Ale gets a flavour makeover:

  • Orange
  • Cherry
  • Vanilla
  • Lime
  • Raspberry

My wife wanted Dr.Pepper and she had the choices of Cherry Dr.Pepper or Cherry Vanilla Dr.Pepper in addition to the (now somewhat boring) regular Dr.Pepper.

I’d never seen anything like it.

And yet, with all the awesome innovations in convenience and technology, the Americans STILL don’t appreciate the importance of privacy in the toilet!

stall gap

“Peek-a-boo! I see poo!”