ʽʽHi, I’m Benjamin Nunn – critic, gourmand and author of Ben Viveur. I like to eat and drink. And cook. And write.

You might have read me in an in-flight magazine, or a beer publication, but here on my own blog I'm liberated from the editorial shackles of others so anything goes.

I deal with real food and drink in the real world, aiming to create recipes that taste awesome, but which can be created by mere mortals without the need for tons of specialist equipment and a doctorate in food science. Likewise, I tend to review relaxed establishments that you might visit on a whim without having to sell your first-born, rather than hugely expensive restaurants and style bars in the middle of nowhere with a velvet rope barrier, a stringent dress code and a six-month waiting list!

There's plenty of robust opinion, commentary on the world of food and drink, and lots of swearing, so look away now if you're easily offended.

Otherwise, tuck your bib in, fill your glass and turbo-charge your tastebuds. We're going for a ride... Ben Appetit!

Monday, February 28, 2011

Silly season in the world of crisps

It’s that time of year when Walkers Crisps introduce a range of ridiculous flavours, only temporarily, thank God, and this time it’s in aid of Comic Relief

I'm not going to officially critique the four comedian-inspired varieties, because that would insult both our intelligences, but suffice to say that all four varieties bear absolutely no resemblance to the foodstuffs they purport to be, because, well, crisps very seldom do, do they?

I tried ‘Steak and Al pie’ (basically a subdued beef and onion flavour) and ‘Jimmy con Carne’ (subdued chilli flavour) a couple of weeks ago, and yesterday the spirit of Red Nose Day compelled me to complete the set, so I tried  ‘Steven Fry Up’ (subdued smoky bacon flavour) and ‘Frank Roast Dinner’ (subdued roast chicken flavour with the addition of sage and rosemary). 

God knows why I wasted my time eating these ridiculous crisps, just as I did with the ‘Cajun Squirrel’ and ‘Builder’s Breakfast’ flavours they inflicted on the world a year or two, but I really should have learned my lesson by now.

Comic Relief stopped actually being funny about 20 years ago when that bloke kept saying 'The Belgians' anyway didn't it?

Breast milk ice cream might be courting controversy at the moment (my personal squeamishness around lacto-cannibalism means I'm not in a hurry to sample it) but at least it's made using an authentic ingredient, albeit one that came out of some attention-seeking housewives' tits. 

You suck, and your product sucks

But back to Walkers Crisps, and why my view of them has become increasingly negative over the years:

Properly-coloured crisp packets are teh good.
Firstly, they’ve got way too big for their boots, taking over smaller (and arguably tastier) crisp makers, rationalising the product folio they inherited along the way.

Secondly, they unashamedly sponsor Leicester City,

And thirdly, not only did they get all the colours monged up (it should be dark blue for Ready Salted, Light Blue for Salt’n’Vinegar, and Green for Cheese and Onion, you fuckwits) but they also became so ubiquitous in the potato snack sector that an entire generation of youngsters have now grown up believing that this tuberous abomination is completely normal.

I wish Golden Wonder had fought their corner for proper, blue, Ready Salted, but they were too busy making Pot Noodles instead, and, like the Smiths and Rileys crisps I enjoyed as a child, they are now hard, if not impossible to find. (Oh, and my favourite chilli flavour Zweifel crisps that came in the bag made of the same stuff that you used to get wrapped around Lucozade bottles. Them were proper yummy!)

I’ve become way more fussy over the last 20 years or so. I used to eat Prawn Cocktail flavour all the time as a child, but I tried a packet the other day for nostalgia purposes and found the syntheticness unpleasantly overbearing.

Keep it real

Nowadays, I just wish they’d keep crisps simple and honest.

I hardly eat anything other than sea salted, and when I do, it’s likely to be in the ‘sea salt and black pepper’ or ‘sea salt, garlic and herbs’ ballpark – you know, something where the actual ingredients actually reflect the stated flavour, rather than, say, ‘Chicken’ crisps that have seen no trace of fowl but plenty of tarragon and paprika.

Even before sampling them, I know that the only constituent part of Frank’s theoretical roast dinner that made it into the actual product is the potatoes, which renders the whole concept moot in my view.

Any crisp that purports to be flavoured with some kind of meat or fish will usually be pretty horrible, with the possible exception of bacon flavours, which are sometimes acceptable, though hardly authentically bacony, obviously.

And until this time next year when Walkers will launch their breast milk flavour, ‘Chicken’ and ‘Beef’ are probably the worst offenders.

At least if they fried ‘Beef’ crisps in actual beef dripping rather than sunflower oil, they might be able to produce something that actually tasted like the description, but then, I guess children and vegetarians would complain that their beef flavour crisps actually tasted of beef rather than of beef flavour crisps.

Of course, then there would be a whole new market for 'Beef flavour crisps' flavour crisps...


  1. Robert have you ever tried Scampi and Lemon Nik Naks? Hmmm....How about bear flavoured crisps or perhaps seal cub.

  2. Fig and kidney crisps.

  3. Dear Ben Viveur.

    Mrs Caddy, the book shop owner from Chizlehurst, once had a recipe for lesbian flavoured crisps.

    As you can imagine, such an unusual flavour brought scandal to the village, so much so that the local vicar stopped believing in God. In the end, Mrs Caddy decided to change the name, and now her infamous lesbian crisps are known simply as 'chicken'.

    As Bertie Wooster once said, 'Luverly...'


  4. Get serious man! Flavour is flavour! Everything is flavour - and as such subjective as the designation suggests! Get a grip man!

  5. I disagree.

    Flavour isn't flavour. Unlike that rapper from Public Enemy, Flavor Flav. Not only does he have the flava, but he *is* the flava.

    Also he wears a giant clock around his neck in case he needs to know the time.

    What we talking about again?


  6. 'It should be dark blue for Ready Salted, Light Blue for Salt’n’Vinegar, and Green for Cheese and Onion, you fuckwits.'

    Incorrect. The correct trooping (of) the colour is red for ready salted, blue for cheese and onion and green for salt and vinegar, you fuckwit!


Comments are always welcomed and encouraged, especially interesting, thought-provoking contributions and outrageous suggestions.