Wednesday, June 12, 2013

ruffling my ridges

I am a snacker.  Always have been.

That does not mean I do not like high quality food.  I do.  A lot.

But I also like my snacks.  And the saltier and greasier they are, the more content I am.

When I moved to Mexico, I thought it would be easy to kick the snack habit.  Almost every snack in my neck of the beach is chili-lime flavored.

That was interesting for about the first month here.  But it wore thin quickly.  And I stopped eating snacks.  Just like that.  All it took was boredom.

But i had not taken into account the power of Mexico's middle class to crave some variety in their snack life.  During the past two years, new snacks have appeared on the shelves of Soriana, Walmart, Comercial Mexicana -- even, my local little grocery: Super Hawaii.

First, it was Lay's potato chips.  Barbecue.  Salt and Vinegar.  Followed by several flavors of Pringles.  And then a flood of the full panoply of Kettle Chips (from Salem, Oregon, I might add).

All at eye-rolling prices.  But I buy them.  Along with Snyder's pretzels and bold flavor Chex mix.

When I lived in England, I was introduced to a new snack almost every week.  The British have a knack with potato chip (or "crisps," as they would have it) flavors.  Beef.  Chicken.  Prawn.  Almost as if a Top Ramen truck had crashed at the Walker's factory.

But my favorites were Worster sauce -- and pickled onion.  I probably could have eaten a case of pickled onion crisps and asked for more.  Now, I can buy them only when I slip past the IRA-sniffing customs officials.

Like most middle classes around the world, the Mexican middle class seeks out experiences that bestow legitimacy to their upward mobility.  And brand names fit the bill.  Especially, American brands.

That is why I was not surprised when I saw this bag at Comercial.  It hits a middle class bonanza.  Two American brand names "Ruffles" and "Burger King."  And a new flavor:  hamburger.  A whopper in potato chip form.

This was not my first encounter with hamburger-flavored potato chips. The first was in Beijing last year.  And the drill was the same.  The upwardly-mobile Chinese wanted something to distinguish them from their neighbors.  What would be better than an American hamburger?  (Or the very odd dill pickle potato chips>)

I tried them in China.  So, I certainly had to try them in Mexico.

The first taste was a bit weird.  But it was all there.  The charred hamburger patty.  The bun.  The lettuce.  A hint of ketchup.  A bit of mustard.  I may as well have been sitting at the Burger King in Manzanillo -- along with the gang of middle class children on their way home from their private schools to their middle class homes.

The hamburger chips rate a solid C+.  Far better than the D- that goes to the chili-lime contenders.

However, nothing will ever match the pinnacle of snack time.  The English pickled onion crisp.

That treat will have to wait until at least September of next year.  But there I go: spilling another adventure.

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