So Many Crisps…

People in the UK like crisps, lots and lots of crisps. They play a central role in the sandwich meal deal, which you can find in grocery stores, newsagents, department stores and drug stores. For $4-$6 US, you get a packaged sandwich, drink and either crisps or a dessert. It’s great for grab-and-go meals or for packing lunch during a train or bus trip.

But there are so many crisp varieties to choose from. I always try to find the oddest crisp I can, within the limits of our allergies. Between my onion allergy and Marilynn’s prawn allergy, it eliminates a lot of crisps. But, fortunately, there are plenty more. Read on for my take on the oddest dozen I could find.

Brannigans Smoked Ham & Pickle crisps—They taste exactly as billed, with a rich ham flavour and an undercurrent of pickle. One of Declan’s favorites.

Brannigans Roast Beef & Mustard crisps—Another winner, with a hint of mustard you can smell as you bring the crisp to your mouth, then a commingling of the two that is quite satisfying.

Brannigans Roast Lamb & Mint crisps—Upon tasting one of these, Declan shuddered involuntarily—twice. Marilynn said she liked the mint flavour. But that leaves the taste of sheep, very old and very gamey sheep. I will admit that they taste just as advertised, but the premise is so, so wrong. There’s a reason the British Corner Shop carries the other two types but not this one.

Roysters T-Bone Steak bubbled chips—They look like the blighted potatoes with an awful skin disease and taste like beef bouillon cubes. Don’t like the mouth feel and definitely don’t like the taste.

Scampi Flavour Fries—These technically aren’t crisps because they are made from corn and bread crumbs. But I didn’t notice until I read the package carefully. My compliments to the chemist because they taste exactly like scampi.

Bacon Flavour Fries—See just above for the specifics, but I like them, I really like them.

Hula Hoops (various flavours)—You can’t eat a bag of Hula Hoops without putting them on the fingers of at least one hand, like one does with Bugles. They are super fun to eat. In addition to regular flavour, they come in salt and vinegar, cheese and onion, BBQ beef and others. There are also Big Hoops. If you can put Hula Hoops on your fingers, I shudder to think what Big Hoops are affixed to before eating. “Look, lover! No hands!”

Tayto crisps (various flavours)—Tayto crisps are made (where else?) at Tayto Castle, about 30 miles from the flat. The company is proudly Northern Irish. I just wish I liked their crisps. They’re OK, but the crisps aren’t hefty enough for me, and the tastes are bland. They also make puffed corn “chips” that remind one of eating packing peanuts.

Hunky Dorys Buffalo Crisps—You couldn’t make these in the US, because you’d have to call them Buffalo Chips! Big Ruffles-like ridges, great taste. Another winner.

Space Raiders Beef Flavour Cosmic Corn Snacks—There’s an alien right on the package, so you know these are gonna be %^&*-ed up. And they are. Taste like beef bouillon packing peanuts, in the shape of alien heads. But hey, they’re only 20 pence, so get your munchies on for cheap!

Golden Wonder Saucy BBQ Flavour Transform-a-Snack—You can actually build what the package calls “out of this world vehicles.” Declan said these were “really good,” but again, they’re puffed corn (see packing peanut references above).

Hot Lips Nice ‘n’ Spicy Flavour Maize Snacks—Weird logos on weird packaging. I had no idea what they were or what flavour. And it was a big package, so if they tasted like crap, I would have wasted my money. I should have just shut up and bought them because they are delicious. Not hot in the least. Instead, they have a smooth, smoky flavor that makes you want another (and another).

Just like books, you apparently can’t judge a crisp by its package. Unless it contains lamb flavouring, of course.

Walking Between the Raindrops

If you were a tourist in Belfast today and doing anything outside, you’d have hated the weather. Fortunately, we aren’t tourists, so it was a wonderful day. If you stayed inside every day it rained in Belfast, you’d become a hermit in short order.

We entertained guests at the flat last night and slept in later than normal for a Sunday. I’m fighting a cold and welcomed the extra slumber. But when we got up, the rain was slanting sideways across the bay window in front. A crappy day, to be sure, and not one that screamed, “Let’s spend the day outside!”

For the love of crisps

But the flat is small, and one can only lie around for so long. So between downpours, we walked down the Lisburn Road to Poundland to buy weird crisps. This will be fodder for a future column, but Brits love odd-flavored crisps. Prawn. Lamb. Worcestershire sauce. Ham and pickle. Steak.

On past trips, we’ve become quite taken with the Meal Deal, which normally consists of a sandwich, crisps/dessert and a drink for a low set price (generally 3-4 pounds). Great for eating lunch on the go. I always try to buy the oddest crisps I can find that don’t contain onions (I’m allergic). But I have been unmoved by the selection at Tesco (local grocery store chain). Then we wandered into Poundland a few weeks back, and there, in all their glory, were the odd crisps I hadn’t yet encountered, many of which I likely won’t love. But I will try them all.

We bought a half-dozen bags (at a pound apiece, of course), went hairdresser window shopping for Marilynn and bought a few sundries at Tesco, before returning home.

Poop and polar bears

The rain started coming down almost the second we reached the flat. But it soon let up again, so Declan and I spent some time at the Ulster Museum, which is free and near the flat. The Ulster Museum is a joy to visit, and the exhibits feature a little something for everyone. You’ll find contemporary art and sculpture, Egyptian mummies, artifacts from Ireland’s rich history, ammonites, dinosaur bones, dinosaur poop and Peter the Polar Bear, who lived life at the Belfast Zoo and now lives on in death in a prominent place at the museum. You’ll also find an Irish elk (pictured), more accurately described as an Irish giant deer.

We stayed for about an hour, leaving right before the museum’s 5 p.m. closing—and yet another rain storm.

Meal Deals aren’t just for lunch, either. For dinner, we had a Marks and Spencer 10 pound dinner deal—whole roast chicken, rosemary potatoes, apple tart and a surprisingly good bottle of wine. And there is half a chicken left over.

All in all, not a bad way to spend a rainy Sunday in Belfast.