Rachel Bennett

Eating Crisps in Class

In Food on January 30, 2011 at 10:45

I was trying to eat lunch. It was during the food forum, the only opportunity for us to refuel on fridays.Yet I always find it an incongruous setting for a pack lunch, with a guest lecturer expounding on viticulture or famine relief as I scatter crumbs of a cheese and chutney sandwich and attempt to remain dignified.

Today, in addition to my sandwich I’d brought a bag of crisps*—delicious, honey golden crisps, the kind with soft matt packaging and a charming air of artisanal irregularity. Tired and weak in my resistance to this cunning marketing, I gleefully opened the packet. This was the first mistake as it rent the air with a loud, irreverent crackle. I withdrew my hands in a hurry, relinquishing ownership of the crisps. But they caught my eye again—despite my sincere interest in the social stratification between land owners and wine growers in Burgundy—an elegant curve of crisp peeping out of the bag, wafting the mingled scent of salt and vinegar my way. It was too much.

I reached for a crisp and put it in my mouth. And that was the second mistake because this crisp was crisper than all the rest; it might have crisped for England. I froze and glanced guiltily about.

“. . . and wiz zis terroir we av a shift from ze geological to ze cultural conception. Yes, ze idea of terrrrroirrr as a long istory . . .”

The crisp turned soggy on my tongue. It was not the most pleasant experience but a fortunate solution to the crunchy predicament; at least I could swallow it and get back to the complexities of terroir.

Alas the bag kept calling, its beach-brown wafers spilling out the side all warm and beckoning, salty and tangy. And so I spent the class in a state of frustration, waiting innocently for a while, then giving in to the crispy allure, popping one in my mouth, and realising my error. Then I had to sit glum and jaw-motionless, feeling the torturous crackle sag on my tongue, the crisp flop, and the flavour linger briefly before fading into nothing.

I will never eat crisps in class again.

* Chips to my fellow Americans. I’ve chosen to use ‘crisps’ as I think that on this rare occasion the English have it right. Crisps far better describes the way they scrunch and shatter in the mouth, the whole sound and feel of these divine morsels.

  1. Great Rachie! but what is a crisp?

  2. Also what is a Terroir?

  3. Obviously, darling brother, you didn’t read the footnote (indicated by an * next to the word ‘crisps.’ Ehem. And terroir is the idea, sometimes codified in law, that a specific geo-cultural area has unique abilities to produce a certain product. It originates in France from the push to define ‘Champagne’ as only producible in the French region of Champagne (so that sparkling wine producers in other regions couldn’t claim their product is Champagne). It is a way for producers to claim exclusive rights to a name and thus add value to their product and has since spread to many agricultural goods from certain cheeses to cured meats etc. But it is still a contentious concept as the defining of a ‘terroir’ is often highly political, arbitrarily excluding less influential producers etc. xx

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