Friday, April 29, 2011

Whinging about Pommes

Firstly, I'm going to have to preface this with a whole explanation to avoid the crisp-chip / chip-fry confusion. Basically it can be explained thus: What the Americans call "Chips," the British call "Crisps;" and what the British call "Chips," the Americans call "Fries." (For more scientific information, see my own research at More's Uncyclopaedia, the world's (mis)leading database of facts, figures, lists, and general trivia.)

Being British, I am inclined to use the words God gave us and not the more common, colonial / international corruptions. I assume this stance will not offend anyone.

But I am not here to talk about the ongoing Anglo-American Lingo Wars, I'm here to talk about the Dutch. The Dutch like their chips (fries) so much they have more than one word for them. They called them "Frites" or "Patats" and the only difference in usage I can see is that frites tend to come in paper cones and patats in polystyrene cartons. The highest form of frites you can get here are Vlaamse Frites, or Belgian Fries. It's odd here, because the Dutch love to look down on the Belgians. Pointing out their country is really just the quickest way to France; and that it's a place where signposts can change language half way through because the left half is in a French-speaking part and the right in a Flemish-speaking part. Yet, two things the Dutch are very, very fond of are frites and beer, and the highest form of both of these, as far as the Dutch are concerned, are the Belgian varieties.

What aren't so popular here are crisps (or the American potato chips). Or at least they weren't. When I arrived some 9 years ago there were 3 flavours of crisp in the stores. Three. "Natural," "Salt and Pepper" and (for the people with exotic tastes) "Paprika" (sweet pepper). That was it. I'd just come from the UK, where crisps were considered a good substitute for pretty much any meal of the day. In the UK, and even more so in the US, the array of crisp flavours (as well as crisp brands and styles) is staggering. But in the last few years, there are more and more crisp flavours and types appearing in the Netherlands. So much so that Lay's, the multinational crisp conglomerate, had a competition locally to vote for new flavours. So what do you think the winning flavour was? Huh? The winner was "Papatje Joppie" – chip-flavour crisps (or fry-flavoured chips). I'm not joking.

Now, clearly they are not purely chip-flavoured – they are the flavour of chips dipped in a mustardy sauce, but still. Really, are you so obsessed as a nation that when offered the chance to have ANY flavour in the world, you chose that your potato-based snack should taste like a different potato-based snack? I sometimes wonder if the ultimate Dutch snack would be a crisp that tastes like a chip dipped in mashed potato and sprinkled with flaked potato skins. Mmm, starchy.

No comments: