Sdtrk: ‘Ceremony (Original version)’ by New order
What in the living hell is ‘Do you remember Food?’, you enquire? Read this post, enlighten thyself, etc etc.
For this entry, we have two snacks that, while I can’t say they’re my favourites of the birthday package, are pretty damned close. From Japan, we have okonomiyaki-flavoured potato chips by Calbee, and from Engerland comes Wilson’s White Kendal Mint Cake.
Okonomiyaki, if you’re not familiar with it, is a Japanese dish: it’s best described as pancake-like, and loaded with an assortment of toppings. It’s not a meal in and of itself — although they can get rather big — but it’s a food staple over there. Various regions have their own specialty takes on the okonomiyaki: you can get them with such toppings as meat, or cheese, or squid, or octopus, or even ramen, soba, or udon noodles. The list doesn’t stop there, of course, but you see what I’m getting at.
Sadly, I have yet to find a local establishment that serves okonomiyaki; the nearest place that I know of would be the food court at Mitsuwa, the Japanese shopping mall in Arlington heights, Illinois, that my friends and I usually try to visit once a year. So why not recreate the great taste of okonomiyaki in potato chip form? Why not, indeed??
Admittedly, those chips didn’t last long. 1) I love potato chips, for better or for worse, 2) the 55g bag was half-empty to begin with — ‘packaged by weight not volume’, that sort of thing, and 3) it’s the closest I’m going to get to tasting okonomiyaki until I get round to Mitsuwa’s aforementioned food court. But I will say this — those chips were good. The outstanding flavour I recall was that of catsup, even though neither catsup nor tomato anything are listed in the ingredients. Hilariously enough, one of the ingredients that is listed is ‘Flavour’. Just ‘Flavour’. Well, that’s certainly what you want in a food! There was a wee bit of lingering spice, too; not a lot, but noticeable. Maybe it was the Flavour Enhancer that’s also listed as being in them (we call that MSG).
Where does one begin with Kendal mint cake? Seeing the packaging for the first time, I thought the confectionery company was called Kendal, making this their mint cake. Au contraire! Kendal, a town located in weird old Cumbria, England*, is where the idea first came about, and apart from Wilson’s, Kendal mint cake (hereby shortened to KMC) is manufactured by a couple of other centuries-old companies, such as Romney’s, and Quiggin’s. No word as yet if Boggis, Bunce, and Bean will be entering the market with their own version. But much like okonomiyaki, the multiple companies offer their own takes on KMC. Buttermint candy, Rum and butter, and one ominously referred to as ‘brown’. That’s, ah… nice and vague.
The event that really put KMC into the British Sweets Pantheon would be the fact that Sir Edmund Hillary and his expedition brought bars with them on their first successful climb of Mt Everest, back in 1953. Upon sampling some, I can see how it helped them, as KMC is like 900% glucose. Doubtless Hillary and his lads sprinted up to the summit in under an hour.
The taste is best described as ‘very bright’. Picture a York peppermint patty without the chocolate, and with the mint volume cranked up to eleven. Even with my sweet tooth — I only have one, incidentally; the rest are normal teeth — there’s only so much of that I can handle in one sitting. Personally I can’t just eat a KMC as if it were a 3 Musketeers bar; I have to kinda nibble on it, like a squirrel, cos it’s just that intense. It is, as they say, a ‘sometimes food’.
The consistency is interesting, too. You ever see translucent stone? KMC looks a lot like this, to be honest, if you were to increase it to six times its original size, illuminate it from within, and, y’know, turn it into a sink. It’s slightly sticky as well, but I think that’s due to the peppermint oil they use to make it. As stated, it’s a high energy food, and to be honest, I did start to type this out faster after gnawing on a corner of Kendal mint cake. Perhaps I’ll bring some to work, and run the fifteen miles back home when I’m finished!
Overall: the okonomiyaki chips were delish, but starting off with the bag being half-empty is a bit grim. Once I become Sovereign King of Earth, one of my first edicts will be for potato chip manufacturers to fill the bag, let it settle a bit, then fill it almost to the top. Cos, I mean, seriously. And the Kendal mint cake isn’t bad at all, but it’s definitely something I wouldn’t be eating once a week; once every other month, maybe. Too much sugar in one go would have me seeing through the fabric of Time Itself. Wait, I’m saying that like it’s a bad thing! LOOK OUT LINCOLN, HE’S GOT A GUN
NEXT UP: more of the same!
*What makes Cumbria weird? Well, it’s the birthplace of Yan and Hamilton of the legendary British sea power, so there you are. Honestly, Cumbria should be proud