Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Lay’s Saveur Ketchup

           Ketchup has got to be the most déclassé condiment of our times, part and parcel of the whole hamburger-eating American stereotype which is alive and well for good reason, but let us concede to the undeniable truth of the matter: ketchup is pretty awesome.  Try eating fries with and then without ketchup; this is not a purely academic exercise, because while French fries (or should I say, Belgian fries?- in fact, the origin story of the fries is far from clear...) are as popular in France as you might imagine, ketchup is not a default table setting, and a restaurant is much more likely to offer you a pot of mustard to accompany your frites (not bad as a dip, but lacking the sweetness which makes ketchup so lovable, forcing Norther Americans to publicly shame themselves into making a special request for a bottle of the red stuff .)  So, while we all have a natural guilty feeling when we consider the gruesome bloody farts ketchup bottles produce, we should realize that without those venerable bottles of Heinz’s finest, we would be truly lost when confronted by yet another mound of flavorless ground beef and lightly seasoned fries.

Actually, there are some exotic theories
as to the origins of ketchup involving
a Malysian pickled fish sauce (koi-chep)
without tomatos brought into England
by explorers in the 18th century.
            That said, my instinctive guilt surrounding this staple of horror movie special effects made me feel rather squeamish about the idea of ketchup chips.  Just as you wouldn’t eat ketchup strait with a spoon, it seems grotesque to propose it as a chip seasoning.  Those who know me well, however, can predict that my sense of duty prevailed and I decided to continue boldly claiming my mantle as the man willing to sample the snacks and reassure the littlefolk whether they are safe to try.

            Fortunately for me, and the rest of you, it turns out Ketchup chips are as hot as a fountain of blood-red vinegary-sweet lava.  They correctly lean a bit on the vinegary side, but add just the right notes of tomato-y sweetness that you’ll swear you have the after taste of Uncle Heinz’s mouth wash.  If it helps, think of them as vinegar chips with a hint of tomato and sugar and you’ll be good to go- I think you will find the seasoning finely balanced between the acid and the sweet, or at least as balanced as the soup of cats.

            Crisp wise, these are your regular Lay’s potato chips, which is to say unimpressive- lacking in crunch factor, but serviceable.  However, that’s kind of beside the point- you buy Ketchup chips for flavoring, not texture, and fortunately, the seasoning is spread lightly and evenly throughout the chips to a generally positive effect.  While I can imagine a few ways they could kicked them up a notch, (a phrase which seems to give not a few culinary observers a sort of post-coital thrill), the truth is Lay’s did an excellent job balancing the seasoning, and your fingers will smell like you just left a messy hamburger grill.

Stars: 3/4
Spiciness Rating: None

- Nice but not overpowering vinegary flavor
- Uncannily evocative and subtly sweet tomato aromas
- They smell is just right!

- The crisps are average in texture and a little flimsy
- The shame of a guilty pleasure

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