Saturday, March 04, 2006

Chips and Chocolate: The Classic Combination

On the edge of seventeen, I finished high school and after a summer of full time drudgery, departed for Europe for a year of work and travel. These days, with the backpacker culture and gap year becoming more popular, this seems almost normal, but back then it was slightly bizarre. Even now I am astounded that my parents allowed it. (Their defence is that they couldn't stop me, but as I point out, there is a big difference between not stopping someone and handing over a plane ticket and a cheque!)

While travelling through the Germanic countries, I became rapidly addicted to Paprika flavoured potato chips. These and Joghurt Milka chocolate. Yes, it is very sad to say, but my first European food experience was more about gelato, chips and chocolate than Michelin starred restaurants. Quelle horreur!

I don't remember eating the chips again in Europe, although a few years ago I had a good scout around for the Joghurt Milka (a yoghurt flavoured filling squashed between two layers of milk chocolate). I was disappointed to find that not only it had disappeared, but so had many of the other local chocolate bars. It might be comforting to some, but I was unimpressed with the offered assortment of M & Ms and Mars Bars! I don't go to Europe to eat chocolate I can have at home!!!

So I was pleased and surprised to find these Dutch paprika chips at an organic store last week. I hadn't seen the things in years but I could barely wait to get home and rip the packet open (I was too afraid of what might happen if I started eating them in the car). I ripped open the packet and inhaled. Yes, it was the same. And then I scooped up a handful and tasted. Stale chips. I tried to persevere but there was no hiding the stale fustiness of a packet which hadn't been completely sealed. Or ripped open in shipping. Or, I don't know, maybe Paprika-Ribb means "Yes paprika chips and also a bit stale" in Dutch.

I was disappointed, but the most outrageous part is that the 100g packet cost ... I can't bring myself to say it, just have a look for yourself ... So revisiting the past may be expensive and also a bit pointless. Remind me not to look up Stefan from #@*&%burg while I'm at it. But in the same week, I was browsing in a deli and came across a good selection of Ritter Sport blocks. As Saffron says, "a chocolate with the word sport in the title is not lost on me". I was only gazing casually when my eyes fell on a Joghurt block. Ten minutes later I was home, curled on the couch with the block and bliss. Some tastes of the past aren't bad at all.

Afterword: This photo was taken on a VERY HOT day. And when I saw the smears on the chocolate from my fingertips touching it for the merest second, I hesitated to continue with the shot. The thought flashed into my mind that I could just lightly wipe it with olive oil to restore that chocolately sheen. Then, sanity returned and I realised that I was about to become one of those obsessive food stylist types and from here it would be one step away from basting raw chickens in browning essence and photographing "dinner". So I gave myself a mental slap in the face, took the shot and sat down and ate the rest. And it was good.


At 7:31 AM, Blogger Another Outspoken Female said...

Backpacking and restaurant meals just don't go together (let alone the age we tend to make such trips). But mMy travels through europe at 22 has just as valid food memories, even though they come from the lower end of the market.

Great thin crust pizza's and chianti in Florence.
Tapas in Barcelona.
Creme fraiche in france.
The best croissant of my life - Loire Valley (after freezing my arse off all night camping - the coffee with the croissant in the bar was the best cup ever).
The extraordinary bouillibaisse I had in the worst town in France (free with a bed for the night at the hostel from hell).
Even my first experience of Stilton (before I stopped eating such things) at my father's friends lunch table in London.

But the food experienced that ruined me forever was a Belgian favourite that had leached its way into other european towns - hot chips with mayonaise. Once tasted never forgotten. You can never go back to vinegar or tomato sauce again!

At 9:24 PM, Blogger cin said...

My husband is a huge fan of those paprika flavoured chips too, and on our last trip I brought back 2 packs of mixed mini ritter sport flavour chocolates! My favourite is the one with large chips of sherbet that crackle in your mouth.

Those hot chips with mayo are pretty good too.

At 11:28 AM, Blogger plum said...

Hi AOF, your list sounds better than mine! And I've never gotten around to hot chips with mayo, but I have a Belgian friend who swears by them.

Hi Cin - now you've got me on the hunt for sherbet ones! Must try!

At 8:24 PM, Blogger Ange said...

I love that Ritter yoghurt chocolate, were did u get it???

At 8:23 PM, Blogger Niki said...

I thought that top photo was off potato chips dipped in chocolate (a la the USA) and I thought, girl, what are you doing?!?!
I remember those Milka jogurt bars; I loved the tangy strawberry ones. I also lived off Ritter sport when travelling through Europe in 2004. I think I managed to eat a block of every single flavour (mmmm...tiramisu).
I'm with Cin; hot chips with mayo are fabulous. We ate lots in Holland - excellent on a wet, cold day. And so very healthy, too!! ;-)
(liked the Ritter photo. Do you recall my melted blackcurrant kit kat photo? The whole thing was deformed and I nearly didn't shoot it, but it *was* 42 degrees and I wasn't about to start becoming a precious food photographer either!)

At 7:21 PM, Blogger deborah said...

aaah dear ritter sport... its a cute little square block and gets me every time i visit harris farm markets in sydney. yesterday they were selling two blocks for $4. i nearly caved in.


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