When was the last time you saw a black potato-chip bag?
The Brits have been racing far ahead of the Yanks when it comes to potato-chip flavors. As Fork in the Road has frequently reported, the snack flavors found in the U.K. often verge on the shocking. While we plod along with the usual Sour Cream & Onion and Nacho Cheese, the English are munching things like Roast Chicken, Worcestershire Sauce, Salt Marsh Lamb & Mint, and Pickled Onion chips.
These usually don’t contain actual quantities of the marquee ingredients, but cunning mixtures of chemicals thought to resemble chicken or lamb, or whatever odd taste combo they happen to be flaunting.
An exception, though, are the Marmite crisps recently found at the London Candy Company on the Upper East Side. Now, in case you didn’t know, Marmite is a bottled flavoring invented in Britain in the late 19th century as something to do with the malty by-products of brewing beer. For years, it masqueraded as health food, and was regarded as a boon to vegetarians for its meaty flavor. I would say the flavor is more fishy than meaty, with an overwhelming saltiness that’s decidedly an acquired taste.
Nevertheless, denizens of the former British Empire — especially those in New Zealand, where the Marmite is even skankier, and in South Africa — go ape-shit over the dark paste, which is spread on bread or used in toasted cheese sandwiches. King Arthur, help us!
Now along comes a potato chip (known as a “crisp” in England — the word “chip” is reserved for french fries) flavored with Marmite. As I picked up a bag, I wondered if it would be as bad as I feared.
An aerial view of the Marmite-flecked snack
Luckily not. Though the chips are as pale as a Cornish coal miner’s face, and flecked with something that could easily be mistaken for coal dust, the flavor is relatively subtle. The usual saltiness of the chip has been cut, in favor of the saltiness of Marmite. There’s a musky undertaste like the bad air in a subway tunnel, not really annoying, if you’re used to the awful, chemical-tasting savor of most flavored chips, here and abroad. And the bag, at least, is rather handsome.
Good or not, I found myself eating the entire bag.
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