CRISP IRISH FINISH
Everyone visiting Ireland is encouraged to try all the food and drink associated with the country but there is one product that for me is the quintessential taste of Ireland and that is our national potato crisp. It is simply called Tayto and generations of Irish have grown up on them. Okay it is not as prominent as Guinness, Whiskey or Irish stew but as a simple snack it generates a huge national iconic pride. If you are out for a pint in an Irish pub you simply have to have some Tayto crisps. Some pubs sell rival brands and this is always a disappointment. I have even brought my own Tayto crisps to these pubs.
They are so revered that boxes of them have been posted abroad over the decades to far flung emigrants long departed from their native Ireland but missing their true taste of home. These days you can sometimes find them for sale abroad so they are not so much a novelty to other countries who wonder why we make such a fuss over our humble little spuddy snack. Well they are much more than this; they are virtually an Irish institution.
The simple reason we give it such praise is that no other crisp has been able to match Tayto for it flavour and texture in mine and most Irish opinion. I have eaten hundreds of varieties at this stage and I still come back to our Irish crisp as being the best. Okay there is my obvious bias but there is also the fact that what they do is really special and after all they were the original. I have given packets to crisp fans in other countries to try out and they have been instantly converted.
Their x factor is that the Irish Tayto crisp inventor was the first to figure out the way to add the flavour in an innovative production process and the winning combination of cheese and onion was the first one taste tested. A fellow called Joe Murphy developed the idea in fifties Dublin at his kitchen table. He also created a brilliant marketing mascot called Mr.Tayto to advertise his product and the rest is history. The fictional Mr. Tayto character took on a whole life of his own even running for government and writing an autobiography. Only in Ireland.
At the start Murphy drove around Dublin selling his crisps from a single van and then built it up to a huge factory in the sixties distributing nationwide. Eventually he sold off his company in the eighties to outside investors and retired to Spain to live out the rest of his days knowing he had brought something special to Irish culture. They are now made not far from me here in Meath. Technically it was a major scientific breakthrough in food history that Murphy latched on to and a real entrepreneurial moment to be seized upon.
Up until the fifties only salt was sprinkled on commercial crisps after cooking and then with post war scientific research flavours were able to be vaporized by gas so that individual compounds of ingredients did not break down after processing hence the ability to be able to add various tastes to foods like a deep fried potato crisp. After
Murphy produced his brand many others replicated it internationally and it became the norm. Of course crisps had been around for a good while long before any New York restaurant started serving them. They were in cookery books before then and already a traditional garnish for classic game meat dishes like roast pheasant which were known in cooking as game chips.
In the nineteenth century French had soufflé potatoes which were deep fried potato crisps puffing up when cooked twice. The Irish have also taken our crisp eating to another level with inventing the unique crisp sandwich, basically loading two slices of buttered bread with Tayto crisps in between the slices sometimes called a crisp butty. Now if you have never tried this then it needs to go on your culinary bucket list. Here’s to you Mr. Tayto.