In hindsight I probably should have eaten the block.
Last weekend I decided to stop by a new neighborhood store. It's been open for a while, but since I had just returned it was new to me.
City Market fits squarely into a niche I have for certain groceries and food needs. They have fresh meats, fresh produce, beer, a great deli with a fine selection of meats and cheeses to choose from, good breads, and of course chips and snacks.
I loaded up on some deli sliced corned beef, peppered turkey, Swiss cheese, pepper jack cheese, and a 12 pack of beer.
I was next in line when I realised I had forgotten one of the most important food groups when it came to cold cut sandwiches.
I'd forgotten potato chips.
A cold cut sandwich without potato chips is like sledding without snow. I doesn't go anywhere.
I set my groceries down and walked over to the chip section. They had my favorites in stock, those being the Zapp's line of potato chips. The company formed in Gramercy, Louisiana back in the days of my working at New Orleans International Airport. You can read about their history here.
I picked up three bags of their chips, two Mesquite BBQ, and one Spicy Cajun Craw-Tator. As I was heading back to my groceries to begin the check out process I passed a section of Brim's potato chips. Brim's is a Memphis area company making various snack foods.
I stopped to see what they had to offer. I am a potato chip snob, having been a loyal Zapp's customer since the 1980's, but I am a big fan of most anything Memphis. "Why not try a bag of theirs for comparison?", I thought.
Right at eye level, one line stood out. "Memphis Style BBQ Rib Chips" was emblazoned across the bag.
I had never seen this flavor of chip in the Brim's line. It's not even featured on their website.
In hindsight, maybe there's a reason.
I took the bundle of chips to the register, paid the owner, and trundled smartly back to my condo with my cache of goodies in tow.
The next day around noon I decided it would be a good time to try out the corned beef with some of the marbled rye bread I had purchased the night before. I grabbed roughly a quarter pound of corn beef, three slices of magnificent Swiss cheese, set it on the bread, and topped it with good coarse ground brown mustard.
It was a masterpiece of a sandwich.
I reached for the chips and grabbed the Brim's BBQ Rib chips first. "What the Hell?", I said to myself. I figured I'd give the "home team" chip a shot right up front.
Sitting down, big glass of iced tea and sandwich at hand, I opened up the bag.
I cautiously gave them a whiff.
Up front they had a strong BBQ aroma to them. Stronger than a normal BBQ chip, but hey, Memphis BBQ has a strong aroma itself. It's slow cooked over woods like hickory and oak.
I poured some out on my plate. They had a nice color. Sort of like that reddish brown color one would associate with BBQ'd ribs.
After a couple bites of my sandwich, my attention returned to the chips. I grabbed a couple, put them in my mouth, and started to chew.
And that's when the fight broke out.
They were a little sweet, a little spicy, a little smoky, and a little something else I couldn't initially identify.
All I knew was that whatever that unidentifiable flavor was, was really REALLY horrible.
The pleasant flavor of the corned beef sandwich was immediately gone and gone for good.
Iced tea couldn't wash the taste out of my mouth.
I quickly rolled up the top of the bag and clipped it off to keep that smell from entering the room any more.
I muttered a quiet "Uggghhhh" as I made a "sour milk" face. They were not anything like I expected them to be.
The chips stayed on the plate for the rest of my sandwich. Fortunately the kosher dill pickle had enough acidity to clear the offending flavor out of my mouth.
I wouldn't open the chips up again until two days later.
You see, I am a foodie at heart. I love food and everything about it in most cases. I was curious as to what that unknown flavor was and was determined to try and identify it.
"CSI Snack Food" was now on the air.
I picked up the bag and read the ingredients list for a clue.
No luck. Like most food producers, the ingredients are a trade secret when it comes to flavorings. I reread the list again going over each seasoning carefully. The label read:
"Ingredients: Potatoes, Vegetable Oil(Corn and/or Cottonseed), Sugar, Natural Flavoring, Salt, Onion Powder, Tomato Powder, Spice and Coloring(Contains Paprika), Monosodium Glutimate, Maltodextrin, Hydrolyzed Soybean Protein, Silicon Dioxide, Spice and Herb, Disodium Guanylate, Disodium Inosinate".
It read more like a chemistry assignment than potato chip recipe.
I kept looking at the ingredient list. Nothing stood out. I would have to do it "old school" and take one for the team.
Now armed with a cold 16 PBR, the lab was open. I opened the bag and put some chips on a napkin. I could smell the offensive odor. This was not going to be good.
I picked up a medium sized chip and placed it in my mouth.
Fighting the urge to chug the beer I slowly and painfully chewed up the chip. The "missing flavor" had a sharp, almost aromatic quality to it. It wasn't a smoky flavor, the smoky part was pretty good. Whatever it was still overpowered what might actually be a decent tasting chip.
However, I couldn't take it any more. I chugged the PBR in record time.
It was at the end of the PBR that I realized what that God awful taste was.
Somehow, some way, by mixing the specs all together they had replicated a flavor that every person who has ever been at a cookout has tasted.
The damned chips had a lighter fluid taste to them.
You know, just the way your burgers tasted that one time when crazy, drunk Uncle Bill didn't wait for the charcoal to turn grey. The "45 minute cheeseburger" as a good friend of mine(and charcoal grill Ninja) calls it.
In order to confirm my findings I had to do one more taste test.
The second can of beer went down faster than the first.
Irritating taste confirmed: Lighter fluid.
Now I don't think for one second that Brim's puts lighter fluid or food grade lighter fluid flavorings into the chips. I'm not sure anyone even makes food grade lighter fluid flavorings. I do think it is an unfortunate coincidence.
I"ll not take any more chances on any of Brim's off the wall flavor potato chips.
Think I'll just stick with good old Zapp's.
NOTE TO BRIM"S: Please don't ever use this "Memphis BBQ Rib" seasoning on your pork rinds. Your pork rinds rule! -ATM
Until the next time, all y'all take care of yourselves.
Air Traffic Mike, ret.
Fireball the way the professionals do it
1 day ago