An open letter to the people who ruined chips in this country

Can you please leave chips alone (please)


Change can be a positive thing, don’t get me wrong. It’s great that same-sex couples can get married in this country. I’m delighted that children don’t work 18-hour days in deadly factories, or sweep chimneys. I’m glad to have the vote; I’m glad my prospects of dying violently are lower today than in any comparable point in human history; smartphones shit all over Blackberries.

But sometimes we mistake change for progress. Take chips as Exhibit A. Look at what is happening to chips:

Excuse me?

Excuse me?

What the fuck is happening to chips?

Is that... Is that parmesan, on chips?

Is that… Is that parmesan, on chips?

Chips are the latest casualty in our war on convenience food. In London, across preppy pop-ups and themed emporia, hubristic men with beards sell you the shit your grandparents ate as children, except it costs more, except they serve it with irony, except there’s more truffle on everything.

Ahhh, I love it when they top my chips with cucumber.

Ahhh, I love it when they top my chips with cucumber.

Every portion of chips I’ve ordered and eaten (with extreme difficulty and trepidation) in the last six months has been impossibly sensuous and filthily unrefined. Chips can no longer be chips. They’ve been sucked into the food porn, food-gasm, pimped out, pimped up, gastronomic universe, where every portion of every ingredient is as complex and time-consuming as the most obtuse Russian novel.

Yeah, please put more of that white and green stuff on my favourite snack.

Yeah, please put more of that white and green stuff on my favourite snack.

I don’t want to eat War and Peace. I want some fucking chips.

These took 17 hours to make, and 57 to consume.

These took 17 hours to make, and 57 to consume.

Here is a list of condiments I think it’s acceptable to have with chips: tomato ketchup, mayonnaise, salt, pepper, vinegar.

Here is a list of crap men with sleeve tattoos have put on my chips recently: pulled pork, pulled beef, pulled chicken, chilli sauce, sweet chilli sauce, kimchi, cayenne peppers, paprika, spring onion, nori, fried onions, raw onions, crispy shallots, garlic mayo, sesame mayo, chilli mayo, chilli con carne, sour cream, coriander, truffle, melted truffle, truffle shavings, frankfurter chunks, marmite, steak, stilton, brie, cheddar, fried egg, poached egg, chives, dill, teriyaki sauce, peking duck, sesame seeds, ranch dressing…. And slaw. So. Much. Slaw.

It wasn't meant to be this way

It wasn’t meant to be this way

In mitigation, many of these chips – these poor absurd, abused chips – have been made out of potato, as God intended. But some of these chips, and it saddens me to have to tell you this: some of these chips have been made out of parsnip, out of courgette, out of carrot.

Even the humble chip butty rocks up these days like it has an Instagram account with 50k followers, a bad coke habit and a job at a bespoke shoelace company:

Who did this to you?

Who did this to you?

Am I the last person in this miserable city who doesn’t want their chips to have more life to them than I do? Am I the last person who wants to eat chips salty and simple, on a night bus chugging back to Zone 3, at the back cringing and hiding? Am I the last person who doesn’t want their chips to arrive in a dumb little zinc bucket, or wrapped in themed and thought-provoking paper?

Good way to ruin two good things right here

Good way to ruin two good things right here

We are in a smackdown for the very soul of the chip. Chips aren’t the chips you grew up with. Chips went to London and turned into dickheads like everyone else. They’ve got the whole lot thrown in with them now, they come served with lights, a troop of dancers and a volley of expensive Chinese fireworks. They’re the main event, a meal in themselves. They’ve forgotten what they’re supposed to be, the reason why we eat them, the reason why we love them.

The whole point of chips is that they’re chips.