the ‘Abyss of BBQ’, which is something that I have never properly explained, but has for some time been rattling around my skull shaping experiences, proliferating references, refers to the tendency (that was up until recently in North America an inevitability) of more exploratory and unconventional potato chip flavours to end up just tasting like some variation of BBQ (‘Black Hole of BBQ’ might be a more fitting analogy, but I am erring on the side of poetic resonance here). or, at best / worst / most, like some BBQ-borderline-All-Dressed. which I suppose, given that All-Dressed by definition contains BBQ, would just be “Half-Dressed”. like a deep v-neck and tights, I suppose, were I to suggest a fashion equivalent.
travelling outside of North America, however, exposes one not only to a plethora of new chip flavours, but also a very different set of culinary reference points around which the standard canon of flavours constellate. the most jarring of which, particularly where is concerned the thinking of this Abyss of BBQ is the fact that BBQ is -not- a tried and true point of reference for potato chip flavour profile design (or consumer familiarity) the other side of the Atlantic. which is a reminder of how distinctly (North) American is “BBQ” as such; both the chips and the culinary technique / culture to which they so tenuously and non-specifically refer. arguably, “BBQ” flavour in North America points to nothing, it points to no specific meat, it points to no specific sauce, thus belying the considerable diversity which of course exists in American BBQ (to say nothing of commercially available BBQ sauces, that represent a simulacric register unto themselves); it points only to the BBQ chip itself, or the idea thereof, such that any chip flavour that invokes a particular BBQ’d food item, such as ribs or, say, baby back ribs (the imaginative capacity of chip flavour scientist-administrators for what can be BBQ’d is strikingly lean, it seems) is inevitably understood as a variation on the pre-existing ur flavour of non-specific ‘BBQ’. which of course is not even itself a single flavour, because pretty much every BBQ chip one eats falls somewhere or other along the spectrum of sweetness v. smokiness anyway (and further usually just taste like Mrs. Dash with more or less smoked paprika involved).
which is why it is extra-specially conceptually interesting to encounter “BBQ” chips in European countries (such as England, which I consistently forget is in Europe at all), because one can’t help but wonder whether their reference point is in fact the American BBQ chip or some notion of “American BBQ” as a culinary entity – put another way, is the (ie, any given) European BBQ flavoured chip a barbecued meat flavoured chip, or a a BBQ chip flavoured chip? it us not always clear. in the case (at hand), of the British version of “Smoky BBQ” Kettle Chips, one gets the sense that there is a “real thing” that the Kettle UK creative team is attempting to approximate, but it is almost as if they assumed that the American BBQ chip was itself an approximation of some truly existing object called “BBQ” and they in turn were trying to get closer to that Real. in effect, it tastes like a more tasteful, carefully refined version of BBQ. but what does that mean? WTF, WHAT DOES THAT MEAN? it’s just less gross, less vulgar than the typical BBQ chip? it tastes more like more real things (like, plants and shit) went into making this thing that is supposed to taste like… what? a condiment? a process? fat and fire and the contraction of time into the relaxation of flesh?
my friend James tells me that even the appearance of the BBQ chip in the UK is an indication of the extent to which the usual British resistance to American cultural influence is being dissolved by the recent trend in burger and BBQ joints popping up around London (see also: how the British are now big into building ridiculous towering eyesores, and the proliferation of beers that don’t taste like room-temperature dishwater, which i also will be getting on about soon, believe you me), although I am inclined to speculate that the American BBQ boom is more the consequence of forward-thinking entrepreneurs realizing what an opportunity had been presented by all these Britishers eating BBQ chips and being like “Wait, barbecued –what-?”
also, these chips are huge. can you see how big is this chip? that chip was huge.