Afternoon doldrums hit the open office. Listless workers slouch into their chairs, defying ergonomics. Our protagonist initiates a mental snack calculus. She already went to Pret A Manger today. Twice in one day? The employees might become too familiar with her habits. She thought “what about Starbucks?,” but then realized that the Frappuncino happy hour promotion would likely prove too tempting. After a moment of reflection, she realized the truest option, the most hewed to her own nature, would be to go to Tesco and get some juuuunnnnkkkk.
And that is the story of how I ended up being reacquainted with my old friend Diet Dr. Pepper and meeting my new friend Walker Pops.
Walker Pops fall into the category of “British crisps designed to taste like meat.” There are a surprising number of crisps in this category. These are slightly different because of the “melted cheese” element. The Pops smell like bacon, and the initial impression is bacony, but that’s followed by a lingering cheese flavor. I should note that the ingredients do not list a particular type of cheese. Instead, “melted cheese & crispy bacon seasoning” is the fourth ingredient. Weirdly enough, they do taste specifically like melted cheese. Now THAT is science.
I enjoyed these savory meat chips, and I’d eat them again (particularly after a few beers).
In related news, Dr. Pepper just really gets me, you know? We should hang out more often, even if I have to walk all the way (i.e. 50 feet) down to Tesco to engage his company. He’s changed his name to Dr. Pepper Zero in the UK. I’m worried about his self-esteem.
First of all, what’s with junk food labeling here in the UK? The labels seem to include either extremely specific and uninspired descriptions (i.e. “unmistakably cheesy”) or pictures that suggest an entirely different density. Squares fall into the latter category. I thought these would be thicker, like little salt & vinegar crackers, which seemed kind of interesting. I thought maybe crackers would retain even more savory zing crystals than chips. Alas, these are pretty much chips squared, only in terms of the shape, not (salt + vinegar) 2
I will grant that they don’t seem as oily as potato chips, although oiliness levels do vary from chip to chip, so I’m not sure if this gives Squares an advantage compared to salt & vinegar chips generally. The lightness would be good if you just want a little bit of salt & vinegar. I suspect, however, that most people would rather just go full throttle with their S&V crisps.
According to a label on the back, “snacks with angles is where it’s at.” Shouldn’t it say “snacks with angles are where it’s at?” Am I being too particular? The label goes on to note that “squares are unashamedly different.” Walkers is all about encouraging chip shape acceptance. The label also claims that these are the only crisps that let you “build little crisp houses, before munching and crunching.” I suppose that’s true, only if you’re the Zaha Hadid of the junk food world. The rest of us should stick to building houses with saltines.
Because I am a stranger in a strange land, I didn’t realize these were chips (or “crisps” in the local lexicon).
Am I crazy, or does the package suggest that these are thicker, like something between a chip and a soy crisp/rice cake? Maybe I just saw what I wanted to see. Perhaps it’s because puffy snacks usually have more flavor powder? I’m using the term “flavor powder” as if it’s a technical term. Some people call it “Doritos Dust.” I just rebutted my own thesis there- Doritos aren’t puffy at all, and yet they have enough flavor powder to keep them warm during a long winter. These Cheese & Onion chips are not gilded in cheesy dust, yet they are “unmistakably” cheesy, per the description on the package. Is that really the best word they could come up with to emphasize the flavor of the chips? In the U.S., the flavor would be described as “booming cheese & onion” or “Philadelphia Cheese Steak.” Actually, the latter would be hyperbole, because these do pretty much taste- UNMISTAKABLY- like a union of cheese and onion. And not a Vegas-style rip-roaring union, but rather something more sedate, where everyone is wearing shoes.
These are good if you’re in the mood for Cheese & Onion chips. They’re more oniony than the Quavers I reviewed. However, there are so many other types of chips, er, crisps, in England- including some great salt and vinegar chips- that I don’t think I’m going to develop cravings for these in particular.
PS- Every time I typed “crisp,” I accidentally typed “crips.” I only noticed this after a read-through. I think Soy Crips hang out at Whole Foods.
Quavers are a surprise. The picture on the bag made me think they would have the texture and density of Fritos. I allowed myself to fantasize about making “Quaver pie” with artisan chili of my own invention. Blake Lively would find out about this recipe, and mention it on Preserve. If I had pulled my head out of the clouds, I would have realized that Quavers ≠ Fritos based solely on the very obvious description of Quavers as a “potato snack.” I do not think Quavers would enhance my hypothetical artisan chili, but this incompatibility does not diminish their success as a snacky snack.
Quavers are light and dissolve fairly easily, and they also deliver a very satisfying crunch, probably due to tiny air bubbles (like Munchos). They taste vaguely cheesy at first, but I think their strongest flavor is actually onion, which is two-thirds of the way down the ingredient list. I liked them. If I’m being honest, I think these would be great for people who just spent the night partying, and are winding down with a little junk food binge. This type of binge is usually preceded by a desperate scavenge, where one hopes to discover food which has otherwise proved evasive. Imagine discovering Quavers during this forage- such joy! Finding yourself surrounded by Quavers bags in the morning- a decidedly different sensation.
p.s. While writing this post, I discovered that Frito-Lay has a page dedicated to recipes made with Frito-Lay products, INCLUDING MOUNTAIN DEW. Emphasis added for obvious reasons. Instead of artisan chili, maybe I should host a dinner, and after everyone says “that was delicious,” I’ll tell them their chicken was marinated in Mountain Dew. It would be like those Folger’s ads from the 80s.