Care Package Part 1 – Crisps

Photo Mar 11, 6 37 23 PM

Remember care packages from our college days? Since I lived at home instead of going away to school, I was more of a sender than a receiver of the care package. One of my favorites to send was to my penpal Michelle in Northern Ireland. The mere fact that we were penpals illustrates exactly how long ago this was. We met as young teenagers through penpal want-ads in the U2 fan club magazine. I couldn’t have imagined at the time that placing that ad would result in a nearly 30-year long friendship that is still going strong today.

Anyway, back then, well before the days of the Irish Tiger and the opening of the border with the South, Northern Ireland was in many respects, much further away. (Now I can hop one of the several direct Aer Lingus flights from Boston to Dublin and be there almost as quickly as going to Seattle.) There weren’t Starbucks in suburban Belfast where she’d grown up, and she’d never experienced the pleasure of “great” American snack foods like Reeses’ Peanut Butter Cups or Oreos or Doritos. So I used to take my hard-earned money from working as a grocery store cashier and create the most fantastic boxes of American treats I could find.

As we got older and moved to bigger cities, the world got smaller and it wasn’t as exotic to send these packages back and forth. Until my trip to Dublin to see her in February when I discovered Keough’s potato chips – or crisps, as the Irish call them.Photo Mar 20, 8 55 22 AM

Proof positive that the local seasonal movement is more than just a US phenomenon, these proudly Irish chips labeled with the exact field in which the potatoes were grown and the farmer who harvested them, border on mimicking the famous Portlandia episode in which the server takes the couple to the farm on which their chicken was raised in order to prove its local, sustainable organic origin.

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In addition to this personal touch on the chips, the flavorings are very Irish – Beef and stout Stew, Dubliner Irish Cheese and Onion, Atlantic Sea Salt and Irish Cider vinegar. And oooh are they good! Yes, the idea of a beef and stout stew potato chip does sound rather disgusting at first. But think for a moment about stew. There are potatoes in stew, and they soak up all of the meaty stew gravy. So conceptually, it makes perfect sense. And taste? They managed to make a chip taste like a potato gently simmered in a pot full of beef, veg, and stout all day. There is nothing fake-tasting about these chips. How do they do it?

The Dubliner Irish cheese and onion tastes like Funions. Remember those? And I love a good salt and vinegar potato chip if it’s not so tartly vinegary or so overly salty that it’s unbearable. Keough’s are seasoned with a perfect balance, and the potato flavor still shines through in all of their flavors. They are fresh, light, and potato-y.

Now I’m very curious to try the two flavors she didn’t send. The first is a fall holiday special called “roast turkey and holiday stuffing”, which Michelle has declared her favorite flavor of all of Keough’s crisps. I had no idea that turkey stuffing was a holiday thing outside the US. The other one is shamrock and sour cream. My hope is that the shamrock tastes like an onion (or a chive) and not grass like I’d expect a shamrock to taste. I think I need to try them both.

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