Gourmet crisps, eh?
It was the first phrase I noticed when I picked up a packet of Bill & Mick’s crisps – or, to give them their official mouthful of a title, Bill & Mick’s Real Irish Gourmet Hand Cooked Crisps – newcomers to the Irish crisps scene. Dedicated, as ever, to the spud-eating cause, I quickly exchanged my cash for said crisps and, in less time than it took to say their (admittedly rather long) name, I was at home with some real Irish gourmet hand cooked crisps in tow. In what, I suspect, was less time than that again, the packets of same were emptied and the contents well and truly dispatched.
The verdict, for those interested in what I thought, taste-wise, was this: while they did disappear rather quickly – as all good crisps do – their salt and vinegar had a touch of sweetness that I, personally, thought it could do without; and, though I still have other cheese and onion crisps that I prefer (it’s a tough market with strong contenders, after all), theirs were eminently munchable all the same.
But what, I do have to ask, is with the ‘gourmet’ thing? They’re crisps, lads. Salt and vinegar. Cheese and onion. The kind of thing you might enjoy with a dirty big pint of beer or lodge between two slices of batch bread in a crisp sandwich. They’re not, when all’s said and done, the stuff of sophisticated fine dining (nor, frankly, is that what I expect them to be).
Now Bill and Mick, the brothers responsible for the crisps (and who, judging by the fact that they have been in business for some 30 years, are not the two young lads pictured on the packet), are hardly the first people to apply the word gourmet as code for ‘a bit fancy, like’. And they will most surely not be the last. Neither is it exactly fraudulent – for that, I suggest you look up horsemeat and beef burgers – but, like all marketing, it’s manipulation. Just as we have highly-processed food, so too, can descriptions of food be highly-processed, sugar-coated affairs, designed to create all sorts of positive impressions, which may or may not have a basis in absolute fact. I realise that words must be painted loudly in order to be heard above the din of supermarket shelves, but it would be nice, for a change, would it not, to read descriptions that are full-fact, free from artifice, and with no added adjectives.