William Kitchiner. A man with ‘kitchen’ in his name invented crisps. That is an actual fact, ladies and gentleman. If old Bill hadn’t invented crisps, it would be a bit like a man named Dirk Pornstar becoming a shower salesman. Most Americans are taught in school that they invented crisps in 1853 in New York. This could not be any less true. It was actually the British in 1817. In this year, Kitchiner authored ‘The Cook’s Oracle.’ In it, we have this recipe: ‘Peel large potatoes, slice them about a quarter of an inch thick… and fry them in lard or dripping… as soon as the lard boils, and is still, put in the slices of potato, and keep moving them till they are crisp.’ Hence why we call them ‘crisps.’ Of course, the Americans did succeed in convincing the world to call them ‘chips,’ which we can’t do in England because here, ‘chips’ are something else entirely. I mean, you know, we invented them, so we should’ve had the final word on what to name them, but things don’t always work out like that in life. When William Herschel discovered a new planet, he decided to name it ‘Georgium Sidus’ or ‘George’s Star.’ Others were quick to denounce him and offered other names, my favourite being Neptune Great Britain. They, eventually, settled on ‘Uranus.’ I feel real bad for poor Herschel. Just like I feel real bad for Kitchiner. I mean, really, Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Georgium Sidus, Neptune – I think the original name works just fine. It’s rather beautiful, in fact. They should change it back. I mean, if they can demote Pluto…
It’s a bit unfair on the Americans. Some countries outside of Great Britain name crisps just so. They’re known as ‘chippies’ in New Zealand, which, for me, just seems to add to the fun that permeates that fine land. Heck, in Switzerland they’re known as ‘pommes chips,’ although it must be said that this has little to do with the highly derogatory name Australians have for the English. That I know of. I don’t know why the Swiss would hate us. They’re one of the few countries we haven’t interfered with. That I know of.
Up until the 20th century, crisps were a little known delicacy reserved for the poshest of restaurants, which I agree, is rather funny. It’s not as if anyone would be stupid enough to do that in this day and – oh, what’s that? A crisp restaurant has just opened in Soho in London? Oh. That’s rather tragic. Come the 20th century, mass production saw crisps enter the world of commoners in spectacular fashion. And it was here where the Americans shone. Crisp factories sprung up all over the place over there in the early 1900s. Like Tamagotchi’s in the ‘90s, you couldn’t escape crisps. They were often sold in markets in tins or glass containers and were delivered by horse and cart. It was during this period that American horses were at their heaviest average weight. Can’t imagine why…
Remember the name Laura Scudder. It’s often said that not many can name famous women from history but she’s most certainly one you should. It was this California girl’s idea to iron wax paper into bag shapes to fill with crisps, thus creating an early pioneering crisp packet design. Modern crisp packets are made from plastic and filled with nitrogen gas to lengthen shelf life. Don’t worry, nitrogen gas is perfectly harmless. Probably.
However, America doesn’t have a monopoly on crisp history. Indeed. Irishman Spud Murphy, owner of the Tayto crisp company, developed a technology in the 1950s to add seasoning during the manufacturing process. Spud and his partner Seamus created the world’s first seasoned crisps. Cheese and onion. Mmm… I love me some cheese and onion, which is funny because I absolutely hate onions. They went on to create barbecue and the wonderfully tasty salt and vinegar. Which is funny, because I absolutely hate vinegar. So next time you’re chomping on one of these fine flavours, look to the sky and say, “Thanks, Spud!” Maybe in your head. Saying it aloud might come across as a tad weird.
The United Kingdom remains and always will remain the home of crisps. 70% of our children’s school lunch boxes contain crisps. Walkers dominate the market here, holding a 58% share in the crisp market, making 10 million packets a day. They have six crisp plants across the country, and yes, I mean ‘factories,’ not actual plants, although that would be lovely. Walkers produce a variety of flavours, from prawn cocktail, to roast chicken, to smoky bacon, to lamb and mint… oh, God, lamb and – what is wrong with these people! We’ve gone too far in crisp varieties here, we really have. Oh, God, they also sell chilli flavour. And… American cheeseburger? What the… frickin’ hell is… actually, what is the difference between an American and English cheeseburger? They both come from the same animal and… you know what, it’s not important. You can turn up the crazy, though. Kettle produce crisp flavours such as salsa with whatever the hell mesquite is, buffalo mozzarella tomato and basil, and even beer flavour. Of course, everyone with a brain cell knows that Seabrooks will always be the best. Just can’t beat the Seabrooks. It’s not a debate, readers, it’s a fact. End of.
Over in the States, their crisp industry employs around 60,000 people. And they have crazy flavours, too. Buffalo wing and dill pickle. In Greece, they love oregano flavour. Over in Japan, they enjoy seaweed and butter flavours. Perhaps the weirdest is ‘Cajun squirrel.’ No words, readers. No words…
People adore crisps. Adoration to a mad degree, in some regards. A museum in the German town of Vreden once displayed 2,000 empty packets of crisps. No idea why. ‘Modern art,’ one assumes. It does get stranger, however. When Cincinnatian Fredric Baur died, he asked for his ashes to be put in a Pringles can and put in his grave. He designed the can. He wasn’t just a fan of Pringles. Well, nobody is, really. They’re not even real crisps, for heaven’s sake. And the British consume 20 million packets a day, six billion a year, 150 packets per person per year. We eat a metric tonne of crisps every three minutes, enough to fill a red telephone box every 43 seconds. I love that fact, I really do.
Crisps are marvellous, aren’t they? The British certainly love them, that’s for sure. One time head of research and development at Walkers, yes, they really do have such a department, James Stillman, once said, “There is the physical experience. The crunch, the smell, the taste, how the salt dissolves on your tongue, how the flavours develop in your nose. Take our Sensations Thai Sweet Chilli: put one in your mouth and think. There’s a five second journey going on there, but you won’t get it unless you really think. There’s a great deal of anticipation in opening a packet of crisps.” I couldn’t have put it better myself, Jim. It’s almost sexual, isn’t it? I think I need a cold shower. Sounds like a job for Dirk Pornstar…
What are my thoughts on crisps? Bloody love ‘em…
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