Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Lay’s Saveur Fromage (Cheese Flavor)

When an American product has ‘cheese’, they mean one thing, and that is Cheddar.  We put Cheddar in hamburgers.  Cheddar on toast.  Cheddar in Mexican food, even though they actually use ‘white cheese’ over there.  Hell, even ‘American Cheese’ is supposed to be some form of Cheddar, though its extensive processing and shiny plastic-wrapped slices have their own admittedly unique bouquet.  Are there any other options short of going overseas?  (Sorry, mozzarella is not an American invention, though we probably eat more than the Italians at this point.)  Well, you can get Monterey Jack.  You know, kind of like cheddar cheese with spicy peppers in it.

Rumor has it that Cheddar cheese is
actually only made in shredded and
thin-slice form, but our field agents in
Wisconsin report that some bricks are
still made in isolated hamlets where
Mexican restaurants and school
cafeterias can't get to them.
Anyway, one consequence of this is when you get Cheese-flavored chips in the United States, they are by default Cheddar cheese flavored, unless they go out of their way to say otherwise (a few Parmesan flavored exceptions come to mind.)  Cheese flavoring means orange-powder coating, end of story.  So when I went to France, where there are at least 300 more varieties of cheese commonly eaten than the United States, I was curious to see how they would handle the whole ‘cheese flavoring’ thing.  Certainly, the last cheese flavoring they would ever consider would be cheddar, whose existence they have only been made dimly aware of through McDonalds. 

Fortunately, the marketing experts at Lay's were savvy to this cultural distinction, at least so far as the packaging is concerned, which portrays a very sophisticated looking slice of holey emmenthaler cheese (a milder variety of Swiss cheese) on the package.  They also did their homework with the coloration of the chips, which is light yellow rather than orange, which would only have been appropriate if they were doing mimolette chips.  This left me more than a little intrigued as to whether they had suitably altered the flavor to a different non-Cheddar standard.

Which famous European cheese does this
remind me most of?  Hmmm...
The good news is that the flavoring isn't quite your average cheese flavoring in the United States.  The bad (or at least, boring) news is that it’s still a ‘Cheddar cheese’ flavoring.  Make no mistake, it is a little saltier and creamier than what you normally get, a more intense invasion of the taste buds as it were, but it does not evoke gruyer, emmenthaler, or brie so much as the thick crusty orange flavoring on a Cheese Puff.  Fortunately for me, that is plenty tasty in itself, but it doesn’t quite expand the genre, as we like to say in literary criticism. 

Texture-wise, these are pretty much your average Lay’s chips- a baseline of that which is perfectly adequate though unexceptional.  I must note, at least, that I was pleasantly surprised to have many large, well-coated chips.

In summary, comrades, I must sadly announce that the European revolution in cheese-flavoring has not yet come, the time is not yet ripe to storm the barricades until the masses have been educated and demand more cultural distinctiveness in their unhealthy imported snacks.  However, I did find something a little more flavorful than I usually got in the states, such that between me, my wife, and an opportunistic roommate, the bag was reduced in a space of less than 24 hours.  (In defense of my honor, I must note it was a relatively small bag, like everything else in France!)  So despite my disappointment¸ that must constitute a mild recommendation in and of itself.

Stars: 2/4
Spiciness Rating: none

- Cheese flavoring is a little on the zesty side- more ‘Cheese Puffs’ than Doritos.

- Not really different from American cheese-flavored chips
- Average in quality

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