While I’ll concede that most people would be able to tell the difference between something smoked with wood and something smoked over a pile of burning tires, I’m not entirely convinced that the difference between, say, potato chips seasoned with mesquite smoke and those flavoured with another wood smoke is going to be noticeable enough to warrant mentioning the tree on the label.
Which is to say that I bought a bag of Miss Vickie’s Applewood Smoked BBQ potato chips from a bus station vending machine with very low expectations. Do they taste like applewood smoke? I genuinely couldn’t tell you. It’s not like applewood smoke makes things taste like apples. It makes them taste like smoke. And besides, who the hell would buy something that tastes like burning apples? Exactly.
The specificity of the claim is so rich as to be baffling. It’s like selling ketchup chips that are made with French sea salt. Surely the other more aggressive flavours will drown out the subtle nuance that sea salt would normally bring to other cooking situations?
But with an open mind, I open the bag to an aroma of generic barbecue seasoning. They smell a bit spicy, not smoky, and they look like kettle-cooked chips.
The flavour is lightly smoky, but nothing strong or distinctive. I think I’m getting some caraway or celery seed in the spice mix, which stands out more than the smoke. The seasoning application is unusually inconsistent; some chips are caked in the stuff, while others let the fried potato come right on through. Not all that oily, not much sweetness and less salty than I expected. They’re not subtle, but they’re not Axe Body Spray boorish, either.
They’ve got a good, satisfying crunch, and they wouldn’t embarrass you at a party if you served them in a bowl. Not good for quiet snacking, or for sneaking a chip from the pantry when a toddler is within listening range. They’ll hear you. God knows they’ll hear you. And then you’ll have to share.
Price paid: $1.50 for a 40-gram bag at an Edmonton transit station vending machine.
Availability: Not commonplace. I was surprised by how rarely I saw these in stores when I checked. Other Miss Vickie’s flavours are more widely distributed.
The verdict: Good. They taste like decent barbecue potato chips.