Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Leader Price Tortilla Chips Epicées

No matter where I ago, I am occasionally going to want to make or buy salsa and guacamole, and on those occasions the humble tortilla chip must be summoned forth to perform it’s unglamorous duty as a platform or delivering spicy sauces to your mouth.  In France, these occasions lead me to acquire some of Leader Price’s Tortilla Chips Epicées (spiced) from the grocery store, because not all tortilla chips are created equal, and if they have additional entertainment value when not laden with some form of dip, so much the better.
Lucky Luke, one of the most
famous French cartoon characters,
and important cultural reference
point for French citizens trying to
understand America.
Now, ‘Mexican’ food has a very small but reasonably stable niche market in France, so you won’t see a tremendous variety of offerings, but any decently sized store will at least hold a few of the staple El Paso brand products.  That is to say, ‘Mexican’ food in Europe is probably about where Mexican food in the United States Mid West was about 40 years ago; progressive that I am, I still feel that there has been real improvement since my childhood! 
The idea of the Wild West and the cowboy captivates the French imagination in particular, as evidenced by “Lucky Luke” cartoons, perhaps even more than it does Americans, and most French people assume based on Dubya’s foreign policy that a majority of our political class wears Stetson hats while crowing out ‘Yee-haw’ from the back of a mustang.  Naturally, the package boasts the image of cowboy riding horse in front of the setting sun, surrounded by mesas and cactus.  It takes remarkable skill to pack that many clichés in such a small space.
It seems there was some confusion
between the American South West
and South West Asia.
            Unfortunately, it seems that the flavorists for LeaderPrice confused the American Southwest with the Indian sub-continent. Yes, while present in many Mexican spice mixes, the overriding flavor of cumin will have you think of Dhaka before Deadwood, and leave you reaching for your Mango Lassis and a spoon full of Matter Paneer and Chicken Vindaloo rather than a taco.  (No, I am not giving you a link to a taco.) 
            So, decidedly peculiar.  That said, cumin and garlic isn’t a bad flavor at all, and how many cumin-flavored chips do you come across?  While it’s not really ‘Western’ themed flavoring as an American would recognize it, these cumin tortilla chips are still fun in their own right.
A more appropriate image for the packaging.
(Note: You can actually buy these stamps!)
            The seasoning is perhaps a little too strong and salty, but still enjoyable and reasonably entertaining when eaten solo.  The chips are relatively small triangular corn nachos, unremarkable in texture, but work acceptably as salsa delivery platforms.  In fact, these are one of the few flavored tortilla chips where the flavoring is actually strong enough to be tasted alongside any salsa on the chip.  This can be a plus or a minus, but if you brought the spiced chips over the plain ones in the first place, you probably don’t mind something a little stronger, and it's a pleasant surprise when the crisp' flavoring is strong enough not to be drowned out by the dip!
            In summary, these chips are an example of a product that fails to meet the expectations or exhibit much polish (the flavoring is just a little too salty), but which I rate leniently (and with fondness) because they offer a unique and amusing experience at a bargain price

Stars: 2½/4
Spiciness Rating: Very Mild

- Cumin flavored chips offer something amusing and unusual
- Good for eating alone as well as with dip
- Good quantity for price

- Flavoring is a little too salty
- Chips are unremarkable in texture
- Not South Western flavored (wrong continent, dudes!)

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