I almost went into flavor chemistry. By “almost went into,” I mean I took one food science course my senior year, really enjoyed it, but decided to get a job instead of going to grad school because I just didn’t want to go to grad school.
But I think I would have really enjoyed being a flavor chemist. There is something really exciting about being able to make food taste like different food. And, thinking about it now, it does seem like it would have been a good career path for me as it would have combined two of my great loves, chemistry and disgusting food.
But here we are.
So maybe it was the bitterness of unfulfilled dreams that made me melodramatically proclaim in a Facebook status that I was “bored by extreme chip flavors now.” Bitter or not, within an hour or so I was involved in three different threads (I know we don’t call them that on Facebook, but I’m feeling old today) discussing flavored potato chips (crisps, if you’re from across the pond).
Note: The British have a really fierce flavored crisp game, but we’ll get to that later.
Second Note: Pickle chips are not “weird,” they are sublime and I will tolerate no criticism of them.
During the course of these three discussions I was sucked back into a world of MSG and cheese powder. I found myself particularly intrigued by Lay’s Chicken & Waffle-flavored monstrosities after a friend described them as “cinnamon toast crunch with a ramen packet sprinkled on top.” Another said they possessed a “good waffle flavor” but really dropped the ball with the chicken flavor.
So then I e-mailed Emily being all “Crazy chip flavor round up?” and she was all “Totes.”
After work the next day, I swung by Target and picked up the Lay’s Chicken & Waffles, Lay’s Cheesy Garlic Bread, and Doritos JACKED Ranch Dipped Hot Wing chips. I was going to go to a couple of other stores, to see if more ridic flavors were available, but I came down with a case of “feeling lazy” so we’re going to settle with these three.
Upon fastening my seat belt, I opened the Cheesy Garlic Bread chips. The Cheesy Garlic Bread flavor was the million-dollar-winner of the Lay’s “Do Us a Flavor” competition earlier this year, so it seemed like a good place to start. I ended up opening all three bags while still in my car, switching between all three flavors frantically as I drove home, ultimately confusing my brain, my tongue, and my stomach.
I had to eat a nectarine when I got home just to remember what non-synthesized flavors tasted like (hint: very nice).
Anyway, I have to re-taste them again, because that drive was a haze of Doritos powder and conflicted emotions.
Review of Lay’s Cheesy Garlic Bread Potato Chips:
Oh, man. These really do taste like cheesy garlic bread, but like the kind you get in the freezer section of the grocery store that have a lot of other ingredients BESIDES cheese and garlic and bread.
I see why they won, I could keep eating these for way too long. BUT, the joke would be on me, because after you consume five or so of them your mouth goes numb to whatever new “flavor-basted” experience it was having and they began to taste like every other cheesy/salty Lay’s potato chip you've ever had. My guess is that it’s the sodium overload, because according to this awesome study about salt:
… as concentration [of salt taste molecules] is increased, the saltiness also increases, up to some maximum above which no further saltiness is perceived. Tastants also can be evaluated for their time course or persistence. In the case of salt, taste intensity increases within a few hundred milliseconds and then rapidly falls.
Isn't that interesting? I recommend reading that whole study.
This is picture represents how I feel about these chips:
I know you guys just want to hear about the Chicken & Waffle flavor experience, so let’s do this.
Review of Lay’s Chicken & Waffles Potato Chips:
Something that does indeed taste like ramen powder.
I think I am the only human on this earth that likes these. I mean, “like” is a strong word but I definitely don’t hate eating them.
The maple is there to (obviously) invoke waffles for the consumer, but I’m not sure what flavor is supposed to read as “chicken.” I might be tasting some spices that are used when one roasts a chicken, but I’m not sure. I would say they are more “chicken nugget” than “chicken” flavored, and I’m referring to McDonald’s chicken nuggets, the most nuggety of them all.
If I had to describe them succinctly I would say “maple and roasted chicken nugget with packet of chicken ramen seasoning distributed evenly throughout the entire bag."
This is how I feel about them:
A review of Doritos JACKED Ranch Dipped Hot Wing Chips:
The first thing that hits me on this chip is an odor that is ALMOST that of chicken wings, but not quite. The chip smells more sour than it should. The first flavor that assaults your palate is “sour buttermilk” which I guess is supposed to be the ranch. Then you just taste MSG for most of the chewing process, followed by a vague hot wing sauce flavor at the end, which quickly gives way to mild “heat.”
This was basically the most Dorito-y Dorito I’ve ever had, but way too sour (SEE, things CAN be too acidic for me).
This is how I feel about them:
So that's that. Frankly though, I'm a little disappointed in the readily available crazy chip selection. Other countries seem to be eons ahead of us in this regard.
Which brings me back to the British chip game, and how on point it is.
Tyrrells English Crisps have the lockdown on crazy flavors. They also call their ruffled chips “furrows” which is too perfect and almost too British (there is no such thing).
Tyrells also includes an alcohol pairing for each flavor, so step up your game, American snack companies.
Of course no post on crazy flavors is complete without mentioning Japan. They have Pepsi-flavored Cheetos now, so I don’t even know what they’re doing. I think everything else there is seafood-flavored though.
Canada has these Ketchup & Onion Ring things as well. Good job, Canada.
Maybe I should just go back to school for flavor chemistry. Then I could make pimento cheese or lasagna flavored chips and win a Nobel Prize.
What's the craziest chip flavor you've ever seen? Was it in another country? I bet it was in another country.