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Spud Sunday: Not So Humble Spuds

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.

Bill and Mick and their gourmet crisps

Bill and Mick and their gourmet crisps

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.


  1. Brian@irelandfavorites

    Sounds Like You were a bit let down fair spud. Many an item has faced the over hyped zeal of the marketing dept., in an attempt to improve the bottom line. I suppose you can’t grow your customer base if no one tries you out first. There is something to be said though for the tried and true, maybe rewarding the long established brand that has turned out an honest and consistent product . So we’ll all have a decision to make, A gunness and a bag of taytos or os a blueberry infused micro brew berries and all with a bag of Irish farmhouse cheese and gourmet onion chips.

  2. Daily Spud

    Well Brian, it can indeed be hard to navigate through the forest of marketing terms at times and, ultimately, the proof of any product is based, not on what’s on the packet but on what you find inside. Like you, I too reckon that there is something to be said for the tried and true option but guess it’s good to keep an open mind on these matters too!

  3. Caroline Taylor

    I know what you mean. What is it that makes them gourmet as opposed to just crisps. Not seen these before but will keep an eye out, I’m intrigued by the sweetness in the S&V.

  4. Daily Spud

    Hi Caroline – would be interested to hear what you think of the crisps if you come across them (I gather that they should be reasonably widely available, with listings in Dunnes, Superquinn, Spar and others). Re: the sweetness, they’re not overtly sweet or anything, just a touch of sweetness that I found noticeable (and sugar is listed as an ingredient, though it I don’t recall that it specifies how much).

  5. Mike Mann

    Hi there, I saw your post on how to make oven baked crisps but I wonder how you would make make full-on decadent gourmet crisps at home?

  6. Daily Spud

    Hi Mike – good question! If you have a deep fat fryer, there’s nothing to stop you frying up thinly sliced potatoes to get that crisp effect. Flavour-wise, commercial crisp makers will (as I understand it) formulate their flavours in a dried powder form which can be applied to the fried crisps. Depending on the flavours that you’re after, that might be a little tricky to do at home, though you might be able to get a similar effect using ingredients like dried onion flakes or garlic powder or finely grated parmesan, for example. And hey, even if they aren’t like full-on commercial gourmet crisps, they’ll probably still taste good.

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