Arbitrary Product Review: Haggis and Black Pepper Crisps from Mackie's of Scotland
Photos by Katharine Shilcutt
Apparently, haggis-flavored crisps (or chips, as I'm going to call them for the remainder of this article because 'MERICA) from Mackie's of Scotland made quite the splash when they first entered the American market in December 2010. I somehow completely missed this news, despite my ongoing obsession with obscurely flavored British chips. (Current order of obsession: prawn cocktail, Worcester sauce, pickled onion, cheese and onion.)
In fact, it's this obsession that found me at British Isles a few weeks ago, restocking my household supply of chips that other people find gross and won't eat, leaving them all for me. The Rice Village shop specializes in all things British, from heinously expensive English tea sets to a grocery section stocked with Hobnobs, Penguin Bars, HP sauce and mushy peas. There's even a freezer filled with meat pies, steak and kidney pies and -- yes -- haggis.
I wasn't in the market for haggis, frozen or otherwise, but then I spotted it: Next to the prawn cocktail chips was a black bag with the words "Haggis & Cracked Black Pepper Flavor." It sounded hideous and wonderful at the same time. I swatted aside several small children on their way to the book section of British Isles (which contains completely bizarre children's titles such as Romeo & Juliet for Kids that somehow leave out the whole mass murder and suicide aspect of the play) and grabbed a bag as fast as I could.
Later, at home, I tore the bag open with eager relish. Would they have the oddly sweet tang of prawn cocktail? The meaty punch of Worcester sauce? The briny tartness of pickled onion? Either way, they weren't going to taste like the same, tastebud-numbingly boring Ranch or nacho cheese-flavored chips so popular here.
The first thing I noticed about the Mackie's chips is how large they were. They're roughly the same circumference as an actual potato, with the skins still left on. I already liked them even more than the Walker's chips I usually bought, the ones that otherwise resemble Lay's potato chips except for the interesting flavors.
The second thing I noticed was that the Mackie's chips were far thicker than regular potato chips, giving them a lot of body and crunch. I liked this particularly in relation to the haggis flavor. In haggis, thick oats usually act as filler and body against the "pluck" and spices inside the Scottish delicacy.
The most important thing about the Mackie's chips, however, was the taste. Those afraid of the "pluck" flavor -- that is to say, the sheep lungs, hearts, liver and other internal organs -- don't have anything to fear. In fact, the overwhelming flavor of the haggis chips was the spice profile of haggis itself: black pepper, onions, sage, coriander and a bit of nutmeg. Taken with the fact that haggis is normally served with a side of neeps and tatties (mashed rutabaga and potatoes), the idea of haggis-flavored potato chips suddenly doesn't seem so odd after all.
Verdict: Delicious. Perhaps too delicious for their own good, as my boyfriend immediately raided the bag as soon as it was left unattended. This never happens with my prawn cocktail chips.
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