I don’t want to be Mr Potato Head any more
I’m thinking seriously about ending one of the longest and most satisfying relationships of my life.
It’s one that’s gone on for longer than my marriage and for more time than I knew my Dad, or my Mum.
But I think it’s finally time that I stopped eating crisps.
I’ve talked before about growing up in a pro-booze culture, and how that makes it tough for me to give up beer – but the salt and fat hit of crisps has been part of my life for longer than lager, even.
Crisps and I first met waay back in the 60s, when Salt ‘n’ Shake was just how things were in the State of Snacking, and not some retro gimmick. And, in the 70s, kids like me made tiny, cool badges by shrinking empty packets under the grills of our mums’ Baby Bellings.
I remember clearly bunking off Sixth Form and scoffing a Family Pack of Chipsticks in Roxeth Library one rainy morning in the 1980s – and thinking the big bright pimple I got on my cheek afterwards was fair play, given how delicious they’d been.
If you cut me, I would doubtless bleed sludgy potato. If you sliced me, crisps would run through me, like a stick of rock: but made from dutty carbs.”
The 1990s were notable for sitting with my fellow Sunday footballers and – in lieu of better refuelling options – demolishing a mountain of Taytos with our beers after every game.
And then came the Noughties, and the coupled-up dinner party sophistication of yer Kettle Chips and Phileas Foggs.
So: crisps have always been with me. So much so that, if you cut me, I would doubtless bleed sludgy potato.
If you sliced me, crisps would run through me, like a stick of rock: but made from dutty carbs and spelling out Golden Wonder.
Now that I am getting older, however, crisps are suddenly starting to disgust me. Or, maybe its truer to say that I’m disgusted by the way I act around them.
Take last Friday night, when I scoffed one-and-a-half Walker’s Sharing Packs – the size of small sacks – on my own before dinner.
It was the ravenous, dangerous hour between finishing work and a proper meal, and I just couldn’t stop shovelling Cheese & Onion, then Salt & Vinegar, into my mouth – despite it already being carpeted with a thick wet layer of potato, grease and salt.
I thought my gluttony might be part-down to having nothing to do with my hands but pick, so I sat down with a book – but still kept pulling the bowl towards me.
In the end, I batted the crisps away like a hand that someone creepy kept trying to put onto my thigh. I felt disgusted and violated, and I didn’t want my dinner any more…
I’m training myself to exist without salty snacks, even though right now a beer tastes all wrong without one”
So I’ll admit it: I’m a Crisp-o-holic and I’ve been clean for three days now.
I’m hopeful of training myself to exist without salty snacks, even though right now a beer tastes all wrong without one.
But – if footballer Robert Lewandowski can become ‘The Body’ in part by learning to like lower-fat dark chocolate instead of milk, then I can at least try… It’ll do my blood pressure good as well…
I know the numbers are against me, however. In 2019, the crisp market in the UK was worth almost £1 billion and 93 per cent of households bought them. So there’s no getting away from snacking: it’s ingrained in our culture over here.
Which makes me think: if we hoover up so many of them, why don’t we celebrate crisps more? In art and music, for example?
There’s the Splognessabounds song – Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps – from 40 years ago and Crisps On The Radio from RadMac on 6 Music currently. But I’m racking my brains for other crisp-related art that has penetrated into the mainstream.
Crisps – though they are delicious and deeply pleasurable – are on some level revolting and shameful. Even the veggie flavours”
Perhaps we don’t celebrate them because – though they are delicious and deeply pleasurable – crisps are on some level revolting and shameful. Even the veggie flavours.
Our bodies don’t need them: they are high salt, high fat, the ne plus ultra of unhealthy post-war snacking culture and a direct case of the obesity crisis (certainly, of my obesity crisis).
They’re cheap, mass produced, nasty things and, while I find it easy to give cheap sweets the swerve, I can’t seem to apply the same fastidiousness to crisps.
The thing that might save me here – as ever – is running.
I’ve somehow managed half marathons over both of the past two weekends and still harbour ambitions of running a first 26.2 miler – despite being 50-something.
And I know that if I’m going to crank it up to a full marathon at my age, I’m going to have to be stupidly dedicated – probably giving up beer as well as crisps to do it.
I shall miss that fat and salt hit but, when you’re a man, you sometimes have to put away childish things.
You could say: it’s crunch time.