Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Potato Chip Phenomenon

When traveling, visiting a foreign supermarket is a great way to find out how a nation eats. From the produce section to the meat department, there´s always something interesting to see.

Checking out the convenience food aisle and more specifically the various chip flavors available is something I always try to do. The varieties available typically shed a little light on the most popular flavor profiles of a place. On a recent trip to Bogota, Colombia, I noticed pollo (chicken) flavored chips (pictured), which was a new one for me. Considering the ubiquity of chicken on restaurant menus and in markets, this isn´t surprising. The chips were salty, with a faint chicken brothy taste much like ¨Chicken in a Biskit¨ crackers we have in the states. Besides chicken, the other most popular flavor is lime, which I prefer. Colombians love their limes and most meals are served with a quarter or half lime to squeeze over the food. The acid adds a brightness to everything from soup to plantains to rice.

This potato chip phenomenon holds true in other countries as well. In Greece, oregano flavored chips are most popular. Oregano is common in all sorts of dishes in Greece. In fact, its scent even permeates the open air as the herb grows wild there. And in Spain, ham flavored chips reign supreme, revealing Spaniards wild love affair with the pig.

In my experience, there typically aren´t a zillion chip options to choose from in other countries. There are a few favorite flavors, and a plain option, but that´s about it.

What chip flavor sums up our flavor profile in the U.S.? Barbecue? Sour Cream & Onion? Perhaps the availability of so many kinds of chip varieties reveals that we are a nation of too many choices and too much excess. Or maybe it shows that we are a melting pot of cultures and tastes, to which chip manufacturers cater to.

Who knows. For now, and for the rest of my trip around South America, I´m content to live the simple life, with just a few flavors to choose from when my junk food craving calls.


4 Responses to “The Potato Chip Phenomenon”

  1. 1

    Amy — September 22, 2009 @ 11:13 am

    I absolutely loved this post, Annakate. I'm so glad you are having a wonderful trip!

  2. 2

    DJ B — September 22, 2009 @ 3:50 pm

    My mother is English and when I was a very little boy of about 3 or 4, we lived in her hometown of Norwich, which is in East Anglia, the bulgy cheek above and to the right of the mouth of London. We lived right next door to a bakery and I can still remember the packets of crisps they sold there, reduced to an even more basic level of simplicity – fried potato slices and a separate packet of salt. I haven't been back in years so I don't know if they still sell them that way, but imagine being able to decide how salty you want your chips. The mind boggles…

    But you don't have to leave the country to experience other snack food "cultures." I make it a practice to inspect the snack food aisle in gas station convenience stores when I am traveling. I guarantee you will find products not available in any grocery store, usually smaller local brands, but also my roadside favorite, the wonderful family of health-destroying products from the fine folks at Tom's.

    Enjoy your trip – and bring home some of those chicken chips for us! I'll supply the limes…

  3. 3

    Rebecca Scampini — September 22, 2009 @ 4:56 pm

    mmmm. sounds good. lime sounds better. in australia, they had "meat pie with ketchup" flavored potato chips. a little unnecessary.

  4. 4

    tony — November 13, 2012 @ 1:20 am

    Gosh! I miss those colombian chicken flavored potato chips, too!

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