On our walk along the river last month we stopped for drinks and crisps (or potato chips as the Americans call them) at the Sun Inn by Barnes Pond. While distributing the three packets of crisps between the four of us I asked the following trivial question, which had never crossed my mind before: “If you could have only one flavour of crisp for the rest of your life, what flavour would it be?”
As a family our opinions were divided. My 11 year old son chose salt and vinegar, my wife chose cheese and onion, my 9 year old daughter said she didn’t mind if it was cheese and onion or ready salted. I chose ready salted.
A week later we visited some friends by the coast, in Worthing. They unleashed a feast of different flavoured crisps before our lunch and I asked the same question, about which flavour you would choose if there was only one available for the rest of your life. Our host said, “That’s exactly what I asked everybody yesterday”. (To quote an earlier piece, “What a coincidence!”) Again, opinion was divided between salt and vinegar, cheese and onion and ready salted. Nobody said prawn cocktail.
My choice, and it seems appropriate to write this in the week of the UK’s EU Referendum, is that of a true European. As you travel across Continental Europe the only flavour of crisp you are guaranteed to find is ready salted (or local equivalent). Throughout the last 20 years many long days of driving across Europe have been fuelled by the same ingredients: a 1.5 litre bottle of water (usually Evian), a 500ml bottle of Coca-Cola and a 75 gramme bag of what the Spanish call “patatas fritas”. That combination of salt, sugar, caffeine and liquid (along with my usual three meals a day) has enabled me to drive up to 600 miles in a single day.
For all I know there might be some bogus stories circulating about how the EU aims to clamp down on our beloved, and very British, crisp flavours. You could file them alongside the equally bogus stories about Brussels wanting to make our bananas or sausages straighter. After all, how likely is it that you can buy a packet of smokey bacon or even salt and vinegar anywhere near the Trevi Fountain, the Champs Elysee, or Unter den Linden?