Potato Crisp Magic System

I do like an over elaborate fantasy magic system where powers (and the characters of the people deploying them) are tied to some other phenomenon or system of classification. Of course elements and colours and everything has been done but what about…potato crisp (aka chip) flavours? No, I thought not.

I’ve found many articles on crisps and crisp flavours but not a good one that is simple timeline of the classic UK flavours of potato crisps specifically (i.e. not including flavours of other related snack foods like pickled onion monster munch). The emphasis is either the early history or on novelty flavours.

In the UK the colour coding of packet to flavour is an issue also. There are canonical colours but infamously one of the biggest manufacturers of crisps in the UK, Walkers, use non-standard colours. The colours in Australia are different as well and in some cases I can no longer remember.

So I’m going off my shaky recall of what I think is canon circa late 1970s England.

Salted (or to be precise “Ready Salted”) is the ur-flavour and the basis of all other variants. Historically, the flavour approach had an immediate schism. Cheese & Onion was devised by Taytos in Ireland and Smiths responded with Salt & Vinegar. The names indicate the two approaches to crisp flavours (and related snacks in general:

  • Condiment themed: the flavour is named after a substance, sauce or ingredient that you might add to cooked potatoes. The name should be read literally. “Salt & Vinegar” are crisps with salt & vinegar added to their surface.
  • Meal themed: the flavour is named after some other food that is typically eaten as a core part of a meal or is the actual name of a dish. The progenitor “cheese & onion” implies a sandwich filling. The more exotic “prawn cocktail” is a specific dish.

Beef flavour and BBQ flavour represent a subset of flavours that include other variants such as “Oxo” and “Bovril” flavours. The core flavour is pretty much the same but it crosses the condiment/meal boundary and hence is more ecumenical in this scheme.

What powers go with which?

  • Meal themed powers relate to powers of illusion, deception and control. There is an emphasis on controlling farm animals (hence chicken) or even wild animals (such as the long running hedgehog flavour crisps)
  • Condiment themed powers relate to elemental and alchemic actions. There is an emphasis on single or paired core flavours that are stated directly. Heat (chillies, pepper), acid (lime, vinegar), mineral (salt) are key elemental aspects.
  • Liminal flavours cross boundaries. The BBQ/Beef subset is a clear one but “sour cream” style flavours present a similar taste to cheese & onion but are closer in theme to adding condiments.

As can be seen from reality, the system allows for infinite variation without ever actually doing anything very different…just like lots of fantasy magic systems!

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36 thoughts on “Potato Crisp Magic System

      1. I read the little article you linked to. Very cute.

        I think this flavor would be especially disturbing to us Murcans because, as I’ve mentioned before, there are no wild hedgehogs here — only pet ones. So it’s kind of like seeing “dog-flavored chips” or, gasp, “cat-flavored chips”.

        Ha — we should try marketing “possum-flavored chips” here in the States. ;-D

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  1. Paprika is the most common chip/crisp flavour in Germany. Variations like chili, salt (or sea salt, if you want to be fancy), salt and pepper, sour cream & onion (or sometimes leek), cheese, barbecue, curry, etc… are pretty common as well. Salt and vinegar only started to appear sometime in the 2000s, but is widely available now. Offbeat variations include caramel (offered by a small producer of organic chips), chakalaka (African spiced – pretty good), Thai flavour, Currywurst and Hüttengaudi, which is basically an onion cheese flavour. I think I’ve seen döner kebap flavoured chips, too, and there was a tomato salsa flavour I liked a lot for a while. A lot of those offbeat flavours are also seasonal.

    The biggest brands are Chio and Funny Frisch. Most supermarkets have their own house brands, which range from bloody awful (the stuff my students sometimes bring to school, which tastes of rancid grease and paprika) to the pretty damn good (Aldi’s and Penny’s organic chips). Bigger supermarkets also carry British import brands like Kettle or Tyrell’s, which I’m quite fond of. Lays Chips started popping up in supermarkets a few years ago, but at least the ones they sell here are really bland and bad.

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    1. @Cora —

      I dunno if British Kettle Chips is the same brand as US Kettle Chips, but those are darned good chips.

      As for caramel — just about my favorite “chip”-type product in the whole world is caramel Bugles. I dunno if Bugles are solely US or not, but they are corn products shaped like, you guessed it, a bugle — or more like a dunce cap, really. The plain version is good, but the caramel is to die for, IMHO.

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  2. We don’t have Bugles, but we have something similar. No caramel flavour, though. The only caramel flavoured crisps/chips I’ve ever seen were the organic Krosse Kerle (crisp guys) brand. The company is run by two potato farmer brothers who started making and selling their own potato chips. Their chips are pretty good, particularly the caramel flavour.

    When Kettle chips started showing up in German supermarkets a few years ago with very British flavours, I simply assumed they were British. I never checked, though.

    I’m always surprised that paprika flavoured chips aren’t as common elsewhere, because paprika is literally the ur-chip flavour over here.

    Honey and mustard is also a surprisingly common (and good) chip flavour in Germany.

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    1. @Cora —

      “Honey and mustard is also a surprisingly common (and good) chip flavour in Germany.”

      We probably have those here, but more outstanding to me are the honey mustard pretzel pieces made by Snyder’s of Hanover. I was kind of addicted to those for a while, but I haven’t had any in at least a coupla years now.

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      1. You can get US-style pretzel bits over here and the bigger supermarket chains usually have Snyder’s. I haven’t bought any for a while now, but I liked them when I did.

        Meanwhile, salted mini-pretzels (basically miniature versions of the big pretzels you can get at bakeries or pretzel shops) are very much a snack staple over here, though they’re different from US pretzel bits.

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      2. @Cora —

        “Meanwhile, salted mini-pretzels (basically miniature versions of the big pretzels you can get at bakeries or pretzel shops) are very much a snack staple over here, though they’re different from US pretzel bits.”

        Oh, we have tons of the mini pretzels, too. I don’t ever buy them for myself, though.

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      3. Honey Mustard Pringles are crazy good. The only defense I have against them is not to buy them in the first place. Once they are in my house, they just vanish, like trick photography, except that I’m fatter at the end.

        Snyder’s honey mustard pretzel bits are good, too. The only pretzel product I ever eat voluntarily, in fact.

        I’m almost bemused at talk of paprika flavor. For me, paprika was never a flavor, just something sprinkled on to certain foods to add color. Some day, when the opportunity presents itself, I’ll sample it as a chip flavor.

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      4. If you can find decent Hungarian or smoked Spanish paprika, trust me, that stuff has flavour. Though the regular paprika powder you can get at the grocery store is pretty bland. Paprika is one spice where splurging for the better stuff pays off.

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      5. I’m pretty sure that the secret ingredient in Snyder’s honey-mustard pretzel bits is crack. As soon as I buy them, they’re gone.

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  3. Ketchup would be the ur-condiment flavor in Canada. When I was a kid they were more common than (and better than) barbecue (sauce) chips. I have had many many better barbecue-themed chips since (kettle-cooked chips, Kettle brand and otherwise, seem to Work really well, with barbecue themed flavours), but they often list a more complicated flavor than just BBQ, as barbecue pork ribs or chipotle barbecue or Hawaiian or Mesquite or the like.

    I recently was pleasantly surprised that the “maple and black garlic” were as good as I hoped and not as bad as I feared (the maple was not cloying, as it can be).

    Canada is known for more and even weirder flavours of potato chips than the USA.

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      1. Ketchup is alsio a novelty flavour in Germany, even though it’s kind of obvious.

        Some time ago, one of the big German snackfood companies offered ketchup mayonnaise flavoured chips, because fries with ketchup and mayonnaise a.k.a. fries red and white or fries barrier (because the ketchup and mayo have the same colour as red and white barriers) are very popular in parts of Germany. I have no idea how that flavour tasted, because I don’t eat my fries red and white (red only or – if I want to shock people – with salt and vinegar) and I don’t care for mayonnaise in general.

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      2. Mayo is more of a texture than a strong flavour, so it definitely wouldn’t work as crisp flavour (although dipping crisps into mayo might be nice if you like mayo, which I don’t)

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      3. Heinz had a twitter campaign where they were launching a ketchup and mayonnaise sauce called Mayochup. (Someone probably got paid for that name.) I thought they were going to do other mayo sauces with some other condiments, but I can’t find them on the Heinz site. Mayochup (ugh) has its own special slot on their product menu.

        Speaking of red and white, why are there red and white German football teams? Like Rot-Weiß Essen or Rot-Weiß Oberhausen? Just popular colors?

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  4. There was the episode of The Young Ones (“Boring”) where they’re at a pub and Rick wants a bag of crisps, but non-meat flavored (“Because I don’t abuse my body or the world I live in.”) so Vyvyan orders him a bag of roast ox crisps. At the time it seemed quite exotic, but now it sounds a bit dull.

    Maple and bacon chips always sound interesting, but most of the time they just taste like a slight variant of the average BBQ chip Or chicken and waffles which is really just chicken and maple.

    Lays has Beer Cheese as one of their “Turn Up the Flavor” limited edition chips. I haven’t had those but I did catch a glimpse of them unlike some of their other limited edition chips.

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  5. Up here in Canada, one of the common chip/crisp flavours is Ketchup, which was originally from Hostess/Lays. It’s one of those things that tends to boggle Americans who cross the border. Along with milk in bags rather than cartons.

    https://www.cbc.ca/life/food/7-canadian-snacks-you-can-t-get-in-the-u-s-and-the-backstory-on-why-1.4102299

    I think that article is a bit out of date as I heard that the ban on Kinder Surprise eggs is less of a thing in the U.S. now, but I might be wrong.

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  6. Hmm, stuck in moderation for a link to a CBC article about ketchup chips among other Canadian eccentricities (which I hadn’t seen lenorarose also comment on yet)?

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    1. Douglas Adams said, “It is a mistake to think you can solve any major problems just with potatoes,” but perhaps he was wrong.

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