Wednesday, January 8, 2014


The quest for potato adventure never ends.  This year the Christmas Bunny delivered a number of gourmet (if not psycho) treats.  First was this big bag of Middleswarth Potato Chips (so nearly a Tolkein reference). 

Middleswarth are based in Pennsylvania and we all know that PA is the natural home of great potato chip culture.  And you’ll certainly find plenty of people who swear by them, who consider them world class chips.  They’re certainly very superior, and I think you could even say they’re sophisticated; very thin, very white, very brittle; an Edie Sedgwick among potato chips. 

The list or ingredients is: potatoes, vegetable shortening containing one or more of the following (soybean and cottonseed oil), and salted.  Leave aside “salted" as an ingredient, that formulation about the shortening begs some questions, doesn’t it?  The shortening contains these oils but doesn’t consist of them, so are soybean and cottonseed oils added ingredients, and if so added to what?  Or have they just expressed themselves clumsily?  This is the Middleswarth factory:

Middleswarth are a good chip and I’d hate to say they were too subtle, but certainly they were the polar opposite of the other Xmas potato treat I had - Larry The Cable Guy Cheese Burger Tater Chips. 

Now Larry (and his begetter, stand up comedian Daniel Lawrence Whitney) knows his market and his audience, and you wouldn’t expect anything very Edie Sedgwick-like from him.  And just in case there was any doubt, Larry says on the pack, “Wimpy flavors are for sissies.  These flavors will knock out yer snack cravins like a cop kickin’ down a trailer door.”  And he’s not wrong.  These chips taste of EVERYTHING: potatoes, cheese, tomato, vinegar, mustard, salt and sugar, all at the same time.  In fact the only thing I couldn’t detect was the burger, though there is some smoke flavor in there as well, so maybe that’s posing as meat.

But here’s a thing.  For all the sophistication of the Middlewarth and all the rough and readiness of Larry, a single serving contains 150 calories in each case.  Larry gets 80 of those calories from fat, Middlewarth gets 90.  Either way, it’s a damn shame that no lard was involved in either product.

Also under the Christmas tree, was the beauty seen above: Bob’s Knobs five year old Lancashire cheese. Its resemblance to a firework or candle or volcano is deliberate, I’m sure, and there are all kinds of burnings and eruptions in the taste.  I’ve eaten a fair bit of Lancashire cheese in my time, and the label does warn “our strongest cheese yet,” and I ain’t no sissie, but even so nothing had prepared me for this. 

Looks wonderful, but taste-wise my first impression was that it could be used in  certain dental procedures.  Get a couple of pieces of this bad boy in your mouth, and your lips and gums start to lose all feeling.  

This incidentally is the Bob in question, Bob Kitching, who alas died in 2013.  A great pity.  I’d like to have seen him and Larry the Cable Guy get together to discuss food matters.

I do wonder if the fierceness of Bob's Knobs (it's a minefield of double entendre, innit?) is caused by being wrapped in wax for a long time and then being sent overseas.  My own piece has now been freed and I’m hoping it’ll do some breathing and calm down a bit.  But I’m taking nothing for granted.  As for now, whenever I say to the Loved One that we should try it again she says, “I’m afraid of that cheese.”  I’ve never heard her say anything like that before, especially not about cheese.

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