The true definition of unconditional love is when your family agrees to let you conduct experiments on them and they don’t ask questions. On the evening of my father’s birthday, I went out to dinner with my parents, grandmother, and my sister’s in-laws (but not my sister, we’re cool like that). Afterwards, we returned to my grandmother’s apartment and I issued a request: To assist me in tasting a few unorthodox flavors of Lay’s potato chips – finalists from the “Do Us a Flavor” contest – that have recently made the rounds in supermarkets.
Just a few weeks ago, my mother posted a photo of Lay’s Cappuccino-flavored chips on Facebook, her feelings an even mixture of excitement and trepidation…yes, my mother is on Facebook (as well as my entire family, including my grandmother – it’s actually way more fun than it sounds). A couple of weeks ago, I also picked up for myself a flavor that, for the purposes of the family experiment, I was unable to find: Cheddar Bacon Mac & Cheese (herein: CBMC), submitted by Matt Allen. I will go ahead and jump to the conclusion that – after having come up short in my search of 3 supermarkets, 2 CVSs, and 1 7-Eleven – CBMC is the clear winner of this contest.
In my experience with CBMC, they are pretty much a glorified “cheddar and sour cream” flavor (of the Ruffles variety). On that note, these chips would be much better served if they were ridged …for her (and his) pleasure. The smell is quite pungent – of the kind you would not like to have on your breath for a first date. The immediate sight of standard orange powder lets you know you will most likely need a full body shower after consuming them. Although I did not detect a distinguishable bacon note (despite the ingredients’ promise of “Natural Bacon Type Flavor”), I did get that aroma along with the enveloping Doritos-esque nacho/cheddary punch in the face. The chips were quite tasty and I did end up finishing the bag over a couple of days. That was a couple of weeks ago and I haven’t died yet, so I think they’re safe.
For the remainder of the flavor options, I will go in order from worst to least worst (in my opinion). Hands down, the winner of the most nauseating chip goes to Mango Salsa, submitted by Julia Stanley-Metz. In the words of my dad, “I think we can all agree that Julia Stanley-Metz sucks.” Although I’m quite certain she was not present when whatever New Jersey laboratory created the seasoning formula, she should sue to have her name removed from association with this culinary abomination. My initial thought when taking a whiff of the bag is “these smell like Fruit Loops.” The general consensus is that these chips are terrible. My sister’s mother-in-law (Ellen) simply, and adequately stated, “Oh – I do NOT like these AT all.” To get the full comedic effect of what I witnessed, enjoy this short transcript:
Dad: I don’t taste any mango. I don’t taste any salsa.
Ellen: I don’t taste…these are awful.
Dad: Tastes like something rotted. Like rotted sheet rock.
Mom: These are gross.
Me: I can’t get behind the flavor of these as potato chips.
Grandma: These smell like s***.
“Get these, open the bag, close your eyes, you’re in a candle store,” described my dad upon smelling the Cappuccino chips, submitted by Chad Scott. He went further after tasting one: “These taste like a candle store smells. They’re great as long as you don’t eat them.” I certainly thought they smelled like a cappuccino myself…a sickly sweet, heavily processed, cappuccino you might get from a vending machine. My first reaction to eating a chip was that they taste like a fart, or like rotten mushrooms (which I guess is a similar taste-smell), however I did like the aftertaste after a few. In our group of 3 men and 3 women, the women all enjoyed these best out of the three varieties. The menfolk were repulsed. Does that lead me to believe that women will be inclined to enjoy these? I cannot say, but given our controlled focus group, it is a possibility.
My favorite of the flavors we sampled, and the ones I have next to me as I write this piece, are the Wasabi Ginger chips, submitted by Meneko Spigner McBeth. Fitting that the flavor artist with the coolest name has the tastiest chips. I truly believe that if Lay’s sat down with a culinary school graduate who has functional taste buds, these chips could really be something special. However, massive processed food corporations rarely ever care about the process as long as it tastes adequate and the flavor is strong and salty. To me, these chips smell like oily, gingery egg rolls – and certainly leave their mark on your hands (do NOT rub your eyes after eating them – lesson learned). Grandma thought they smelled like mold. Decidedly, the women in our group did not enjoy these like they did the cappuccino chips. “Too weak. Not enough flavoring. [he tries another chip] Oh wait…whoa. Uneven flavoring,” observed my dad. At first bite, I thought they tasted soapy, but I am not usually a fan of ginger. My sister’s father-in-law (Steve) thought the “wasabi was nice.” After I kept coming back for more, the flavor grew on me and now I kinda like them. My grandma amusingly stated, “they taste better when you’ve had a few.” But, in the end, my dad said it best: “Needs more Maltodextrin.”
As I wrote this, I was enjoying my leftover Cabernet-braised pork shank and garlicky sautéed spinach from last night. On a whim, I crumbled up some wasabi ginger chips over the top. I can emphatically state that I would love to experiment with these in the kitchen. Nom indeed.
Regardless of the tastes we experienced – however heinous – we had quite an entertaining evening sampling these little nightmares. The consensus from mom, dad, grandma, Ellen, Steve, and me is that no matter how crappy these are, leave them in your break room on Monday, and your coworkers will devour them.
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